Apartment fire leaves 60 Iqaluit residents homeless
“It was an extremely aggressive fire”
Updated March 24, 3:47 p.m.
As many as 60 Iqalummiut are homeless after a massive fire tore through an Iqaluit apartment building March 24.
By morning, all that remained of the three-storey building on the Road To Nowhere was a piece of metal frame and a huge, smoldering pile of debris. Large pieces of ash and the smell of smoke still lingered in upper Iqaluit at lunchtime March 24.
“It was an extremely aggressive fire,” said Blaine Wiggins, Iqaluit’s deputy fire chief, as crews hosed down the building’s ruins, sending large plumes of smoke into the air.
“It’s a tragic situation obviously with the number of residents now without a home.”
Mayor Madeleine Redfern said in a Twitter message that 24 of the buidling’s 29 apartments were occupied. Fire officials said no residents or firefighters were hurt.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Jimmy Akavak said police who arrived at the scene helped ensure residents were awake and evacuated.
“They were going door to door to wake everybody up and make sure they got out safely,” he said.
In an interview, Redfern said the building consisted entirely of Government of Nunavut staff housing and said the GN was making arrangements to find new staff units for those made homeless by the fire. Residents stayed last night at local hotels or with friends and family, the mayor said.
“Had this been a large social housing unit or private residential rental unit, it would have placed immense strain on those individuals to find other alternative housing,” she said. “But the GN has assured (us) that there are other units available for their staff.”
City hall, police and volunteers were organizing relief services for victims of the fire. Donations of clothing, toiletries, small household items and non-perishable food are being accepted at Inuksuk High School until 8 p.m. March 25.
Firefighters had been on the scene since shortly before 2 a.m. March 24. Wiggins said the blaze appeared to have started on the outside of the building. Once the fire moved into “concealed spaces” inside, it became more difficult to fight.
Wiggins said the building, built and owned by Nova Builders, lacked a sprinkler system.
Crews were having trouble midday March 24 snuffing out what was left of the fire because the building’s tin roof “basically collapsed on the debris that’s still burning,” Wiggins said.
Fire officials were still investigating and said it was too early to determine the fire’s cause. Akavak said police were assisting that investigation and haven’t ruled out any possible causes.
“We’re treating (the fire) as suspicious until we prove otherwise,” he said.