Fires cost Nunavut a whopping $44 million in 2015

School, power plant and mine site fires contribute to high cost


The fire at the Peter Pitseolak high school last year contributed to the high cost of fire damage in Nunavut in 2015. (PHOTO BY JOHN CORKETT)

The fire at the Peter Pitseolak high school last year contributed to the high cost of fire damage in Nunavut in 2015. (PHOTO BY JOHN CORKETT)

Nunavut’s Office of the Fire Marshal is calling for increased awareness of fire prevention education after reporting the single worst year for fire damge seen in the territory since 2011.

That’s according to the 2015 annual report from the fire marshal’s office, tabled at Nunavut’s legislature June 2.

Nunavut’s total dollar loss from fire in 2015 is estimated at more than $44 million, up dramatically from the $5 million in losses estimated in 2014.

Among that destruction are five recorded deaths related to fire last year, up from a single fatality in 2014.

Four of those deaths struck a single family: Ikie Kautaq, and three of his children, who tragically died in a tent fire near Pond Inlet last August.

The hamlet of Igloolik lost one of its youths to a house fire in May 2015.

“The financial significance of losses of community infrastructure, and most importantly, deaths, are substantial enough for Nunavummiut to strive towards the elimination of all types of fire,” the report states.

In the wake of the dismal statistics, the office is developing new funding for fire departments to offer prevention seminars within Nunavut communities.

That funding “will be introduced as soon as possible,” stated the report.

Two communities shared the brunt of the damage in 2015.

The destruction of the Peter Pitseolak high school in Cape Dorset, and four other reported fires, contributed to total damages of $26 million in the hamlet of about 1,300 people — the highest of any community in Nunavut by a wide margin.

A fire at the Baffinland Mary River mine port at Milne Inlet was the second largest single fire for damages, reported at over $10.5 million.

In Iqaluit, 51 fires, including an estimated $1 million in damages to the city’s new airport terminal, contributed to total damages of $2.4 million.

And Pangnirtung’s power plant fire, in April last year, was one of four fires in that community amounting to more than $3 million in total damages.

Some other highlights from the Nunavut fire marshal’s 2015 report:

• fire seriously injured 18 individuals in 2015, the highest recorded since 2012;

• smokers’ materials and open flames accounted for more than half of all fire ignition;

• incendiary fires were the leading cause of reported fires, at 40 per cent, and human failing was the second highest at 29 per cent;

• 75 residential fires reported across Nunavut in 2015, contributing to total damages of more than $3.2 million; and,

• assistant fire marshals, or AFMs, performed 1,015 fire prevention inspections across the territory.

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