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Fernie Memorial Arena is shown in Fernie, B.C., on Oct. 18, 2017.Lauren Krugel/The Canadian Press

The mayor of Fernie, B.C., says an immediate priority for her East Kootenay city is to reopen the local arena months after three men were killed there.

Fernie Memorial Arena has been closed since Oct. 17 when two city workers and a contractor from Calgary were killed by ammonia gas as they worked on the ice rink's refrigeration unit.

Mayor Mary Giuliano says the city would like the arena to return to normal operations as soon as possible.

RCMP and WorkSafeBC, the organization that investigates workplace accidents, have not publicly updated their investigations of the leak and there is concern the arena could remain closed for the rest of the winter.

Despite the opening of a recently donated outdoor rink, the mayor says teams and skaters in Fernie have been challenged by the need to travel to neighbouring communities for ice time, and some players have dropped out.

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith, both of Fernie, and Jason Podloski of Turner Valley, Alta., were killed when the toxic gas leaked.

Giuliano says other goals for Fernie this year include completing a review of all city departments to improve efficiencies.

B.C.'s auditor general for local government, Gordon Ruth, included Fernie in a 2016 report that examined the risks to smaller communities relying on a limited number of employees.

Results of the report were released early last year and Ruth identified several issues.

"Fernie has limited capacity and many staff carrying out multiple roles in order to deliver services," he said at the time.

Giuliano says staff have been going through each department to identify possible improvements.

The sister of Lloyd Smith, one of three men killed after an ammonia leak this week at an arena in Fernie, B.C., is thanking the community for its support. Wayne Hornquist and Jason Podloski also died in the incident.

The Canadian Press

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