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Summer short-staffing puts pressure on Iqaluit fire department

Three new hires expected to lighten the workload

By DAVID MURPHY

Iqaluit firefighters respond to a fire in Iqaluit this past March. This past July 19, due to summer vacations, only five firefighters were on hand to respond to three medical calls and a fire. But three new hires will help ease the load. (FILE PHOTO)


Iqaluit firefighters respond to a fire in Iqaluit this past March. This past July 19, due to summer vacations, only five firefighters were on hand to respond to three medical calls and a fire. But three new hires will help ease the load. (FILE PHOTO)

The Iqaluit Fire Department had a tough weekend as the department dealt with three medical calls and a fire all in one night.

Usually that wouldn’t be a problem, but that Friday night, July 19, Iqaluit fire chief Luc Grandmaison said short staffing made for a busier experience.

“It was my first time with a low number of firefighters. We were five — typically we want, for that situation, 12 firefighters to be working,” Grandmaison said.

One of the reasons why there had been a shortage of firefighters is because many are on vacation, and that’s just “what we have to work with,” Grandmaison said.

However, the department had all situations under control even with a shortened staff, and prioritized calls as they came in, Grandmaison said.

The fire occurred Saturday night at 2:20 a.m. at the 12-unit Stone Ridge complex.

Upon arrival, Grandmaison’s crew found a male in his 30s with “at least first or second degree burns” and also with symptoms of smoke inhalation.

The man remained in hospital that night.

The fire started in the kitchen, but the man put the fire out himself before fire crews showed up, Grandmaison said.

Firefighters then made sure there were no “hot spots” around apartment afterwards while RCMP evacuated the building.

According to Grandmaison, just over 60 per cent of fires in Iqaluit in 2013 are extinguished in the room they started in, and don’t spread into other rooms — something he said he’s proud of.

After the fire, emergency medical services and the fire department had to attend to a person vomiting and a deceased person in an apartment.

The days of short staffing seem to be over, however, as three new firefighters have been hired by the City of Iqaluit permanently.

This means the department is up to 17 full-time firefighters plus one chief officer, and 15 volunteer firefighters as well.

There is also one more firefighter expected to join the force as well.

The process of hiring three more firefighters started last January.

The new firefighters are Tim Woodhouse of Ontario, and Mallory Jagoe and Chris Maclellan of Iqaluit.

“I’m grateful the city has decided to add additional staff — and there’s still one to be hired,” Grandmaison said.

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