Iqaluit house fire displaces several tenants

Fire chief says no one was injured in blaze; cause of Friday’s fire still unknown

This is what remains of a house in Iqaluit that was destroyed by fire on May 12. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Several people were displaced by a fire that destroyed a home in Iqaluit’s Tundra Valley neighbourhood on May 12.

No one was injured in the fire, according to fire Chief Stephen McGean, as everyone was able to make it outside quickly.

He said he isn’t sure how many people lived in the house but estimated the number to be six or seven.

McGean said he was first notified of the fire at 2402 Abe Okpik Cres. at around 4:32 p.m. Friday. He was on scene about two minutes later, and by 4:38 p.m. the first fire truck arrived.

Shortly after, police closed off a stretch of the 2400 block of Abe Okpik Crescent to make room for fire and water trucks.

By about 6 p.m., a thick cloud of smoke could be seen from several areas of the city. The smoke also set off alarms in the house next door. The bulk of the firefighting was finished by about 9 p.m.

“[The building] collapsed in on itself and then we were just putting out the hotspots, making sure that there is no more fire progressing anywhere else and that the other exposures or houses around it were fully protected,” McGean said in an interview Monday.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

McGean said the Nunavut fire marshal and RCMP are investigating.

Sgt. Pauline Melanson, the RCMP’s Nunavut spokesperson, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry on whether police consider the fire to be suspicious.

RCMP officers work at the remains of a house on May 13, the day after fire destroyed the home. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

McGean said the owner of the home had insurance. He estimated a house of that size could be valued at approximately $800,000. The house was a rental, and tenants were living there at the time of the fire.

At least one tenant received Canadian Red Cross support to stay in a hotel for a few nights, McGean said.

He commended his team for their response to the blaze. He said they attacked the fire from all sides of the house to contain it to that property.

“The firefighters were fantastic,” he said. “Each team was given a task to do and they did it without a hitch. … Makes my job very easy, standing back and trying to make some critical decisions.”

He advised that in the event of a future fire, people stay at least 500 metres away to avoid interfering with the firefighters’ response and so they aren’t inhaling potentially toxic smoke.

On the evening of the fire, at least a dozen onlookers stood and watched from across the street, including children.

“Public safety is one of our major concerns here,” McGean said. “The last thing I want to have to be doing is just keep checking on people that [are] trying to sneak up behind me to get the best photo.”

Friday’s fire turned out to be the first of a few times Iqaluit’s emergency services got called in to action, according to a report about the department’s weekend activity that the city sent Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, by using a CPR machine, paramedics were able to save a resident having a heart attack. That individual was set to Ottawa for care in stable condition.

Sunday evening, crews responded to another fire in a boarded up building downtown in the 200 area.

Heavy smoke was seen escaping the building but the fire was located and doused quickly.

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