Lack of water hampers Iqaluit firefighters

Tundra Valley house gutted



A fire at house 2485 in Tundra Valley on April 17 was compromised by an inadequate water supply system, said Leo Tobin, the city’s deputy fire chief.

About 20 firefighters relied on five rotating water tankers, which needed regular refilling.
Ideally, water for fighting fires originates from a nearby fixed water supply, as is the case of neighbourhoods served by utilidors.

“We kept running out of water because there’s no hydrants up there. We had to keep water trucks coming…. At times we were waiting for the water truck to show up,” Tobin said.

Tobin said his comments were not a criticism of the city’s public works department, but an example of the need for piped water throughout the city.

“The guys from public works were more than willing to help out. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Tobin said.

The 3,000-litre water trucks pumped an estimated 45,000 litres from the time the call was dispatched at 4:15 p.m. to when the blaze was extinguished at around midnight.

Tobin would not say if hydrants might have saved the now charred and gutted two-storey grey house. Tobin confirmed, though, that firefighting efforts were “hampered” by the inefficient system.

The problem is not unique to Tundra Valley. Fires in Apex and any other neighbourhoods served by truck do not have hydrants.

No one was injured in the Thursday fire, and the cause of the blaze is the subject of two investigations: one by the Iqaluit fire department and the other by the homeowner’s insurance company, Tobin said.

Isabelle Benoit, one of two residents, was home at the time of the fire but escaped unharmed. The other occupant wasn’t home at the time, Tobin said.

“We were going to evacuate the house next door, but he was already gone,” Tobin said.

As part of the private investigation, a security guard is watching the house 24 hours a day, Tobin said.

Even though the fire was contained the day it started, firefighters returned the next day to douse a “flare up” – a patch of smouldering embers hidden by rubble.

The first fire caused the most damage.

“Right now it looks like the fire originated from the [main] floor. It wasn’t like a big burning flame. It burned through the roof and the roof ended up caving in. The house is ruined. They’ll have to rebuild,” Tobin said.

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