Sailors from the Chicoutimi learned last night just how toxic the smoke was from the fire that claimed the life of their comrade in 2004.
A briefing was held at CFB Halifax for the 55-member crew and their families to discuss the findings of a report that recreated the fire and broke down the toxicity. The meeting was also to connect sailors with medical resources and discuss claims with Veterans’ Affairs.
Several sailors came forward with health concerns, specifically respiratory problems, in the months after the fire that killed Lt. Chris Saunders.
“There were no surprises,” said navy spokesman Cmdr. Greg Agnew referring to the toxicity report, which was not released to the media yesterday.
“The smoke as a result of the fire was very toxic and very dangerous,” he said. “There’s nothing unusual that was discovered.”
So far, this post-traumatic situation has followed the same pattern as when firefighters are exposed to toxic smoke, Agnew said.
“The issue has shown up early and those sailors are being treated,” he added.
It seemed normal, but the navy wanted to make sure there weren’t any surprises and ordered this complicated analysis.
Eric Lerhe, a retired commodore, said there’s been a long-standing concern about the smoke content almost from the moment of the disaster. This is an entirely unique event, he said.
“I was in command in ships and of the West Coast Fleet and I can’t remember anything with which we had to take such care to brief the ship’s crew on the health issues.”