Iqaluit house fire heroes earn medals of bravery

“I was just doing my job”



Two Nunavut RCMP members who rescued a couple from a burning house in Iqaluit nearly three years ago will receive Medals of Bravery, the country’s second-highest award for courage, from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

“I didn’t expect this at all. I was just doing my job,” Const. Josephee Baines said.

On August 4, 2001, Baines and Auxiliary Const. Robert Wolfenden were heading to a routine call in Apex when they got a more urgent call about a fire in Iqaluit’s white row housing area.

They were the first to arrive.

“As soon as we got there we saw two people upstairs in the window yelling for our help,” said Baines, speaking by telephone from the RCMP detachment in Cape Dorset where he now serves. “The house was filled with smoke and you could see some flames in the building… Our instincts just kicked in and we knew we had to get those people out.”

Smoke initially drove the officers back outside. Fortunately, a neighbor offered two wet towels for the pair to put over their mouths while they retrieved the couple, who were intoxicated at the time.

The police officers gave the couple their towels and, after persuading the uncooperative woman that her children were safe, led them outside.

Baines, who was born in Iqaluit, has been with the RCMP in Cape Dorset since August of last year. Wolfenden has since completed his RCMP training and is now posted in Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan.

Staff-Sgt. Scott McMillan of the Pelican Narrows detachment was not surprised to hear about Wolfenden’s medal. “I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for him. He does a good job when it’s expected of him and sometimes he does more. As a manager, I can’t expect more from a guy like that.”

Both police officers will collect their medals in Ottawa at the end of June.

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