Slow firefighter response worsens damage in Gjoa Haven fire

Community fire chief was attending seminar in Iqaluit


A single-family public housing unit in Gjoa Haven suffered serious fire damage Jan. 27, but that damage could have been prevented if the response from firefighters was faster, Troy Beaulieu, lands administrator and development officer with the hamlet told Nunatsiaq News

The fire, which occurred on the evening of Jan. 27, started in a back room, either a bedroom or the laundry room.

“It took almost half an hour for the [volunteer] firefighters to finally respond, I’m not exactly sure what happened with the phone system, or who was responsible for not answering, or that kind of thing,” Beaulieu said.

The volunteer fire chief was out of town for a seminar on preventable fires in Iqaluit, where a group of Nunavut fire chiefs and firefighters are taking Canada’s first fire-setter intervention course.

The goal is to bring fire safety knowledge back to communities.

Beaulieu said he isn’t sure who was in possession of the [fire] phone that night. That phone notifies the acting fire chief or firefighters that a fire has broken out.

“I can’t speculate right now as to what happened with the phone. There’s just so many rumours going around right now, everybody’s really just quite annoyed that this did happen. It’s unfortunate,” he said.

The hamlet is taking steps to make sure incidents like this don’t happen again.

That means “having the proper phone set up, whoever is supposed to have it, who is responsible, and will answer the phone within the proper time frame.”

He said the fire department’s normal response time is much shorter, with the fire chief setting off an alarm right after being notified of a fire.

The hamlet is looking into whether a power outage could have affected the phone and whether the firefighters could have heard anything, Beaulieu said.

Though most of the fire was contained to the back room where it started, “there was still quite a bit of damage, including a lot of smoke damage in most of the building.”

“It might be repairable, it’s hard to say at this point,” he said.

There were no injuries because of the incident, Beaulieu said.

It’s the second time in recent memory that Gjoa Haven has suffered a problematic fire, Beaulieu said.

“It might have been the dryer. You know if they don’t clean out the lint, the lint will catch fire in the dryer. It’s possible that’s what might have happened,” he said.

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