Alberta briefs – February 26

Energy regulators say a fire at a natural gas well in northwestern Alberta will probably burn for days as experts ponder how to safely put it out.

Well could be burning for days

HYTHE — Energy regulators say a fire at a natural gas well in northwestern Alberta will probably burn for days as experts ponder how to safely put it out.

Bob Curran of the Energy and Resources Conservation Board says air monitors at the site near Hythe have not detected any deadly sour gas.

Curran says the gas that is burning is similar to the natural gas that people use in their home furnaces.

The cause of the blowout at the Canadian Natural Resources Limited (TSX:CNQ, CNQ.U) well is under investigation, however, RCMP have said it isn’t suspicious.

Richard Boonstra, a resident of convicted oilpatch bomber Wiebo Ludwig’s nearby farm, told the Dawson Creek Daily News that the board is downplaying the health consequences of the blowout and fire.

Curran says there is absolutely zero cause for alarm and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

Support units to reduce wait times

EDMONTON — Alberta is adding new specialized support units at two of the province’s largest hospitals to try and reduce emergency room waiting times.

The first of these units has opened at Calgary’s Rockyview General Hospital and a similar unit is set to open in May at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.

The total annual cost of these two units is about $1.75 million and the goal is to reduce waiting times for complex cases from 16 hours to 8 hours.

Patients who require admission to hospital will be transferred to these units after being assessed instead of waiting in the emergency room.

This is meant to take the pressure off of emergency departments by freeing up emergency beds, doctors and nurses.

Similar support units are to be set up at several other major hospitals around the province over the next year.

Calgary fixing 911 call handling

CALGARY — Two cases of domestic violence and how related 911 calls were handled have prompted Calgary’s police chief to order immediate changes to avoid what he called a “system failure.”

In one case, a woman narrowly escaped death when she was attacked in her home when she arrived and found her two children slain.

In another, a woman was heard in distress in the background of a 911 call made more than a dozen hours before she was found killed.

The communications policy at the time was that operators sent police to hang-ups or calls had sounds of distress in the background that were made from landlines only.

Both calls were made from the women’s cellphones, and police Chief Rick Hanson said Thursday that’s an unacceptable “gap in policy . . . that ends today.”

Hanson sent a directive to officials to handle cellphone calls the same way as calls from landlines.

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