Iqaluit arsons keep firefighters active

A rash of blazes in Iqaluit last week has resulted in two arrests.



IQALUIT — Iqaluit RCMP have charged two men with arson for three separate fires that broke out within a 36 hour period beginning early last Friday morning.

They are continuing their investigation of two other suspicious fires that also happened last week.

The first two fires flared up last Friday morning in a pile of garbage that’s been accumulating outside the Kamotiq Inn since the city locked out its striking workers April 16.

Oopeetee Atagooyuk, 46, of Iqaluit has been charged with two counts of arson for those fires.

“The pile of garbage is about 25 feet wide,” Iqaluit Fire Chief Neville Wheaton said. “One end was hit first, then a few hours later, the other end was on fire.”

RCMP officers reported the first blaze to the local fire department at 3:43 a.m. It was extinguished quickly by 10 volunteer firefighters.

The second fire, reported to the fire department by a number of people on their way to work, happened shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Wheaton said it took 14 volunteer firefighters about a half-hour to extinguish the second fire.

In a telephone interview last Friday afternoon, Kamotiq Inn manager Louis De Couto didn’t say much about the fire or the amount of damage it caused.

“Allegedly, somebody witnessed somebody starting the second fire,” he said.

As for the amount of garbage accumulating outside his popular pi a joint, De Couto said there’s nothing he can do about it because the city workers are locked-out, and, besides, there’s nowhere to move the garbage, since the dump is closed.

“We pushed it further away from the back of the restaurant — about 20 feet,” he said. “But if somebody wants to start a fire, what can we do to stop it?”

Wheaton said fighting garbage fires is particularly dangerous for firefighters.

“You have no idea what’s in there,” he said. “There could be spray cans, which could explode. Or, since it was restaurant garbage, there could have been empty propane tanks or used sterno cans.”

The third suspected arson in the 36-hour period happened Saturday morning at approximately 8:30 a.m.

The fire caused extensive damage to House 3008 in Apex, and took 23 firefighters more than two hours to extinguish.

Adamie Naulaq Inookie, 39, of Iqaluit has been charged by RCMP with one count of arson.

Neighbours said Inookie and his family lived in the burned house.

A neighbour, who didn’t want to be identified, said the family was “problematic” and that a number of disturbing incidents had happened at that address in the past.

“I heard that the RCMP found the guy who started the fire hiding out in the shed with his valuable possessions,” the neighbour said. “So, yeah, it sounds like he had it all well-planned out in advance.”

According to Wheaton, firefighting efforts in Apex were hampered by the amount of renovation the house had previously undergone.

“The house had a lot of void spaces, like walls that had been covered over rather than replaced,” Wheaton explained. “With void spaces, the fire gets in the spaces and travels, so you can’t see where the fire has gone.”

The two other suspicious fires being investigated happened at different locations on the beachfront Thursday afternoon and Saturday night.

On Thursday, a suspicious fire destroyed a snowmobile stored on the beach behind the courthouse in Iqaluit.

And on Saturday night at approximately 6:30 p.m., a spectacular blaze destroyed a shed on the beachfront near the Toonoonik Hotel.

Spectators on the scene said somebody lived in the shed, but that rumour hasn’t been confirmed yet by authorities.

RCMP are looking for suspects in connection with both fires.

To some Iqaluit residents it may seem as if there has been a rash of arsons recently, but Wheaton said there’s nothing unusual about the number of fires that have been reported in Iqaluit during the past couple of weeks.

“It’s been busy lately, but it was busier at this time of year two or three years ago,” he said.

According to Wheaton, more fires are reported to his department in the spring, because unused snowmobiles left outside during the seasonal transition are vulnerable to acts of arson and vandalism.

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