Fire official says theatre exits blocked during Saskatchewan bear spray attack

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SASKATOON - Fire officials say emergency exits were locked when people tried to flee a bear spray attack in the middle of a late-night show.

Acting assistant fire chief Luc Durand says magnetic locks on the emergency exits at the Galaxy Cinemas in Saskatoon did not release when patrons pressed on the doors Tuesday night.

Durand says the locks are supposed to release within 15 seconds after someone presses on the handles or if someone pulls the fire alarm. But he says the alarm was never pulled and the mechanism that would have released the locks wasn't present.

Police say there were about 150 people in the theatre when two men and one woman entered and discharged bear spray.

Mike Langdon of Cineplex Entertainment, which operates the theatre, said Thursday that the company has taken steps to ensure the problem with the doors has been addressed.

"The safety and security of our guests is our top priority," said Langdon, who added that the exits were under renovation. "We're looking into it now with our landlord and the construction company to understand what happened with the doors."

Police spokeswoman Alyson Edwards said theatre-goers reported seeing what appeared to be puffs of smoke. She said seven people were treated at the scene.

Edwards said investigators are reviewing security video from the theatre in the hunt for the suspects.

"There's no information to indicate whether there was a specific target, but that's certainly a question we're asking," Edwards said.

The movie that was playing was the summer comedy "We're the Millers."

Durand said firefighters worked to ventilate the theatre and sent an inspector to the scene Wednesday. He said there will be a fine of $250 for obstructing or blocking an exit and the theatre owners must make changes to meet fire-code regulations.

"There are also certain requirements that will have to be put in place to make sure this doesn't happen (again). A big one is to review the emergency procedures and the fire-safety plan and make sure staff are actually aware of how to operate and how to assist the public in the event of an emergency."

Cineplex released a statement saying theatre employees followed protocol by contacting police immediately and the company is working with them to identify the suspects.

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

Organizations: Galaxy Cinemas, Cineplex Entertainment

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, SASKATOON, Edmonton

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