Fatal housefire hits reserve

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Firefighters from the Hay River Fire Department responded to a Feb. 15 fatal house fire on the Hay River Reserve.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Firefighters from the Hay River Fire Department responded to a Feb. 15 fatal house fire on the Hay River Reserve.

The chief coroner of the NWT said the remains of a reserve house fire victim are being sent to Edmonton for a postmortem examination.

“The remains have not been identified and, of course, that is something that we often see in fires,” said Cathy Menard on Feb. 17. “Identification is yet to be confirmed.”

One person died in a house fire on the Hay River Reserve on Feb. 15. and a woman sustained life-threatening injuries, according to the Hay River Fire Department.

The identity of the deceased person had not been officially released as of late last week.

The chief coroner said official identification will be sometime this week. The Hub was unable to confirm the name of the person who died.

According to an RCMP news release, officers arrived on the scene of the fire at about 5:30 p.m. to find a house engulfed in flames.

The injured female was removed from the house on Wolf Drive by members of the Hay River Fire Department and transported to the Hay River Regional Health Centre for medical attention.

“Hay River Fire Department was able to contain the fire, and there was no damage to neighbouring properties,” stated the news release from Marie York-Condon, a civilian employee with the RCMP’s G-Division in Yellowknife. “Once the fire had been extinguished, Hay River Fire Department was able to enter the building and confirm one person was deceased inside.”

The RCMP secured the scene and held it pending the arrival of investigators, which occurred on the evening of Feb. 16. York-Condon said that weather conditions – ice and fog – in Yellowknife and Hay River contributed to a delay in the arrival of  the investigators.

The RCMP spokesperson said no further details would be released until the investigation is complete.

“We did not use the words suspicious, non-suspicious, foul play or foul play eliminated because our team hasn’t been able to assess that,” she noted on Feb. 16. “It would be misleading to say it is or is not any of those.”

The investigation includes the Hay River RCMP, the RCMP G-Division’s forensic identification unit and major crimes unit, the Office of the Fire Marshall and the NWT Coroner Services.

Fire Chief Ross Potter of the Hay River Fire Department said his organization is also involved in investigating the fire.

Speaking on Feb. 16, Potter said he had nothing to report on the cause of the fire.

“We’re still working on all that,” he said.

Potter noted the walls of the house were still standing after the fire.

“But the roof is burnt off of it in places,” he said, adding the windows of the house are also broken.

Potter noted that all members of the Hay River Fire Department who were available responded to the fire.

The fatal fire shocked and saddened the Hay River Reserve and beyond.

On the reserve, crisis counseling was made available to people to help them deal with the tragedy.

Funds were also being raised and donated items collected to help the affected families.

Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes offered his condolences to K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) in a Feb. 16 posting on Facebook.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the KFN community for their loss of life from the house fire,” wrote Mapes. “Our community of Hay River will mourn together and help move forward.”

The mayor also expressed thanks to the RCMP and Potter and his department’s firefighters for their work in responding to and battling the fire.

In the legislative assembly on Feb. 16, Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli, who represents the Hay River Reserve, spoke of his “deep sorrow” in hearing of the tragic fire.

“A house fire claimed the life (of a person) and another is in critical condition and was medevaced to Edmonton,” said Nadli, adding he felt sad and sorry for the loss of life and the family that was affected by the tragedy.

“On behalf of my colleagues of this House, I express my condolences for the family, relatives, and communities of the K’atlodeeche Reserve,” said the MLA, noting he had spoken to Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation. “He asked that people remember them in their prayers for the family and community to get through this great tragedy.”
Attempts by The Hub to contact Fabian for comment were unsuccessful.

–Paul Bickford