Sparks Fly Over Squamish Fire Report

The Squamish Reporter, a local news website, says it was threatened with a lawsuit and asked to reveal the source of a leaked Fire Underwriters Survey after publishing a news story about the survey.

The fire protection survey, conducted by the national Fire Underwriters Survey  organization, is used by insurance companies to determine the level of fire protection in communities. Fire insurance rates are based in part on the data in the survey.

According to the Squamish Reporter’s original story, the survey concluded that Squamish’s fire department was already short-handed, but instead of increasing staffing, the council chose to eliminate one full-time firefighter position in 2009.

In a story on the controversy published in the Vancouver Sun, acting Squamish mayor Corinne Lonsdale is quoted as saying the staff position was eliminated after another full-time firefighter returned from leave. “So we weren’t changing the level of service,” she said.

The Reporter says it received an e-mail from Kevin Ramsay, Squamish’s chief administrative officer, after the original report was published.

“You have quoted from a study that is not public and has never been released to the public. We demand that you reveal how you received this confidential document so we can take legal action against this person,” the Reporter quotes Ramsay as saying.

He goes on: “If this is not forthcoming, we will be forced to take our own legal action with you. Please retract this article immediately and provide the name of your source before Thursday, Sept. 16th, at 1:30 p.m.”

Lonsdale told the Sun that Ramsay’s e-mail was not meant to silence the Squamish Reporter, but to find out who leaked the document.

Gagandeep Ghuman, the Reporter’s editor, wrote on the site that he will not reveal the source of the document or retract the story.