Garage fire disables Nunavut community’s sewage trucks

Baker Lake residents urged to conserve water

Baker Lake’s municipal garage is seen here on Tuesday morning, hours after a fire burned through the building. The garage housed the hamlet’s fleet of water and sewage trucks, as well as other heavy machinery, all of which are believed to be unusable. (Photo by Shane Niego)

By Sarah Rogers

Arlene Ikinilik watched from a distance as firefighters in Baker Lake tried to put out an early morning fire at the community’s municipal garage.

Updated at 5:15 p.m.

Residents of Baker Lake are being urged to conserve water following a Tuesday morning fire that destroyed a number of the community’s municipal vehicles, including its sewage trucks.

The fire department responded to a call at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 29, when flames and smoke were seen coming from the municipality’s six-bay garage.

The garage housed the hamlet’s fleet of sewage trucks—six of its seven trucks were parked there on Tuesday morning—as well as two front-end loaders, a dumptruck and a garbage truck.

“All of them are a loss,” said Sheldon Dorey, the hamlet’s senior administrative officer. “We’ve got one [sewage truck] left in town and our staffer is trying to get that one on the road as soon as possible.”

Contrary to what was previously reported, the community’s fleet of water trucks was parked in separate locations and not damaged in the fire.

But the fire left one sewage truck to serve a community of more than 2,000 people, its nursing station and other essential services.

The hamlet has been offered the temporary use of a sewage truck stationed at Agnico Eagle Mines’ nearby Meadowbank mine, Dorey said, along with another truck in Arviat.

For the short term, the municipality plans to operate sewage services 24 hours a day with the trucks it does have, until the community can build up its fleet again.

Despite calls to declare a state of emergency, Dorey said the community is managing with reduced resources for now.

“It’s a serious serious situation, but I don’t think it’s an emergency right now,” Dorey said.

The community’s schools and many of its businesses and government organizations remained closed on Jan. 29 due to the hamlet’s advice to conserve water.

Baker Lake’s housing association advised residents not to drain water from their sinks or bathtubs if a home’s sewage tank is full.

Fire comes during a period of extreme cold

Baker Lake firefighters battled the blaze in extreme cold on Tuesday morning, where temperatures sat at -41 C.

The fire was largely out by about 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, but continued to flare up throughout the day.

There have been no reported injuries in connection with the fire, and the RCMP is not investigating the fire as a criminal matter.

For now, Nunavut’s fire marshal is overseeing the investigation into how the fire started, though that office has yet to issue any comment.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by TOM on

    If the equiptment is gone life in town is going to suffer big time

  2. Posted by Mike on

    is the report accurate? in another report, it says 6 sewage trucks and 2 loaders were in the garage. which one is correct? CGS will need to work with the hamlet to replace the damaged units along with the insurance company.

  3. Posted by Former baker lakers on

    A state of emergency should be declared. No water, no sewage removal, and being cold. My heart goes out to Baker Lake.

  4. Posted by hunter3 on

    Oh man, this is really bad if they don’t have a single working sewage truck. Back to using honeybuckets for a few weeks! I hope the other news article that reported that the water trucks were safe is accurate. The SAO need to declare a state of emergency ASAP. That will give the community access to funds to fly in replacement equipment.

  5. Posted by Witheld on

    So bath and sink water goes out the sewage system? Hard to grasp that idea

    • Posted by Bemused on

      You mean, like it does pretty much everywhere else in the world where there’s plumbing?

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      If you are still getting water but no sewage pump outs and don’t have a water tank shut off valve when the sewage tank is full regular water use will very soon over flow the sewage tank and it will freeze up and then housing will be looking at having to thaw out sewage tanks all over the place or replacing them altogether when the sewage water expands and cracks the tanks.

  6. Posted by Enoo Bell on

    Oh no.Another fire, loss of so many vehicles,hope they had insurance.Our territory is so short of cash for everything.

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