City takes action on fire hall party that broke COVID-19 rules, but won’t divulge details

By | May 13, 2020

An investigation into a retirement party at a Winnipeg fire hall — in defiance of COVID-19 protocols — has been completed, but the city isn’t saying much about it.

“We can advise that this situation was taken seriously by WFPS and the City of Winnipeg.  An investigation was conducted and we did find merit to the allegations,” a statement from the city said.

“The investigation has now concluded and appropriate actions have been determined. As this matter involves confidential HR matters involving our staff we will not be providing any additional details on the matter.”

A number of Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service members went to Station 1, at the corner of Ellen Street and McDermot Avenue, “to pay respects to a retiring firefighter on his last shift,” a city spokesperson told CBC News shortly after the gathering on the last weekend of April.

The WFPS, like everyone else in the province, has been required to follow physical spacing rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That means employees were required to retain proper distances while at fires and in stations.

“The WFPS takes these allegations seriously and if proven, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken,” the spokesperson said at the time.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service wouldn’t provide details of any disciplinary action that may have been taken as a result of the party at Station 1, saying it’s an internal human resources matter. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

When the investigation began on April 27, the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union sent a statement to CBC saying the reports of the party were “deeply concerning,” especially because it happened in a workplace where health care workers may have been present.

Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said at the time that the union was also doing its own investigation. He added that he wasn’t in attendance at the party. Rather, he sent a video message congratulating the firefighter on his retirement.

CBC has reached out to Forrest for an update on the union’s investigation but has not yet heard back.

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