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Individuals claiming to be Sundre firefighters attempt to change lock

Sundre Fire Department chief said members don’t approach businesses about security measures

SUNDRE — Local business owners are advised to be aware of individuals who have posed as plain-clothed members of the Sundre Fire Department and attempted to change locks under false pretences.

Chief Ross Clews confirmed on Wednesday, April 6 during an interview with the Albertan a social media post shared a couple of days prior by the Sundre Fire Rescue Society cautioning the public that the department had received information pertaining to three people who claimed to be members.

“It was two men, they were walking two great Pyrenees dogs, and a lady was standing back,” said Clews, adding the incident occurred on Sunday, April 3.

Without disclosing the targeted location, the chief said the culprits intended to cut off a lock and replace it with a combination device.

“It’s not any of my members,” said Clews. “None of my members have great Pyrenees, none of my members would do that without talking to me.”

And if any firefighters did harbour any concerns about being unable to access a specific property in the event of an emergency, they would first bring the issue up with the chief, who said he would then personally address the matter if required.

Hence, the decision was made to issue the statement on social media, he said.

Anyone who might be approached by these individuals or any others claiming to be members should ask to see their identification, he said.

“Request their ID if they’re not in uniform. And even if they’re in uniform, request their ID," he said.

Clews said the person who reported the incident informed him the individuals announced their intent to cut off a lock and change it out with a combination device so members of the fire department could more easily access the premise in an emergency.

But changing a business’s lock(s) is not something the Sundre Fire Department would ever get involved with, he said.  

“A lot of the business owners — when they have emergency access gates — will give us the access codes or the keys to the locks,” he said. “But we don’t come and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to put a lock on.’ We never supply a lock for them. That’s their responsibility.”

Besides, in the event a business was on fire, time would be of the essence.

“It’s quicker to actually cut the lock off,” he said. “If you had an emergency situation, I don’t think you’d mind us cutting the lock.”  

So, while business owners who are so inclined are certainly welcome to coordinate in advance with the fire department to provide keys or codes to access their property in the event of an emergency, in a worst case scenario, fire crews won’t waste time fumbling around with locks or keypads and simply cut through to gain access quickly as possible to begin tackling the fire.

Reports of individuals claiming to be firefighters seeking to change locks are exceedingly uncommon in the area.

“This is the first experience of it with the Sundre Fire Department,” said Clews. “And that’s why we put out the notice, in case it’s going on in other places.”

That being said, it’s not necessarily unheard of for uniformed firefighters to make rounds in town.

“We do fire inspections on a request, complaint or regulation basis,” said Clews, when asked how regularly members of the fire department conduct checks of, for example, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.

However, when it comes to private residences, the fire department participates every fall in the annual Fire Prevention Week initiative, which among other fire safety practices involves reminding people to check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries as needed.

And official fire department business is not conducted over the weekend, either.

“If any member ever had to come, it would be during working hours and they would be in uniform or have proper ID,” said Clews, adding firefighters would never randomly appear unannounced on a Sunday while walking their dogs.

“Use common sense,” he said. “If it doesn’t seem right, follow up with the appropriate authorities.”

In a follow-up interview with the Albertan, Cpl. Resus Organ confirmed the incident had also been reported to the Sundre RCMP department along with the suspects' description, but said there wasn't much else to add when asked whether there might be any leads. 

“The matter looks like it’s still under investigation,” said Organ.

Anyone who has concerns may call the fire department at 403-638-4044 or the Sundre RCMP at 403-638-3675.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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