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A fire broke out at the American Iron and Metal recycling facility in west Saint John on Sept. 14, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Saint John sends AIM $218K bill for fire response

By Brad Perry Dec 7, 2023 | 12:19 PM

Saint John is seeking payment from American Iron and Metal (AIM) following September’s massive fire.

Brent McGovern, the city’s chief administrative officer, said they sent AIM a bill for nearly $219,000.

“We actually went through a pretty extensive exercise to review all the information, all the time on site, all the materials used,” McGovern told council’s public safety committee on Wednesday.

The bill includes $122,771 for goods and services, such as foam, water, and the incremental cost of equipment.

There is also a $55,417 charge for fire and emergency management services, as well as a $11,255 charge for Saint John Water services.

News of the bill comes as the Saint John Fire Department releases its after-action review looking at its response to the fire.

Chief Kevin Clifford said they made note of nine observations and detailed follow-up actions for each of them.

The top observation was the inadequate water supply to deal with the incident — something a provincial task force investigating the fire noted in its report released on Tuesday.

“Before we even contemplate AIM being given their licence, there needs to be serious consideration given to the position of the City of Saint John, which is that operation is misplaced,” said Clifford.

AIM’s approval to operate has been suspended since the Sept. 14 fire, and the province has not said when — or if — the company will be allowed to operate there again.

The after-action review also found a need for better communication with residents during an emergency.

After a shelter-in-place advisory was issued on the afternoon of the fire, there was no further update to residents until the following morning, when the advisory was lifted.

“The frequency that we would need to communicate to our community and provide community advice is really going to be a byproduct of the type of incident we have,” said Clifford.

That includes more frequent updates during quickly-evolving situations, such as fires, explosions, and hazardous incidents.

Less frequent updates are needed during slow-paced incidents, such as pending storms and annual flooding.

Clifford said there is also an opportunity to work with New Brunswick EMO to use the Alert Ready system in situations like this.

Other findings include:

  • Improved reporting on air quality monitoring and potential citizen impact from any smoke plume.
  • Using reusable respirators and cartridges by firefighters rather than their traditional breathing appratus.
  • Adding additional safety officers, including an operational safety officer and an accountability safety officer.
  • Attaining appropriate adaptors to improve water flow connection between various stakeholders.

You can view the full report by clicking here.