Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 20, 2012 - 6:54 am

Arviat storage fire started by homeless man’s candlelight

“He’s no harm to anyone. He’s jobless, homeless"

DAVID MURPHY
Black smoke rises up into the sky above Arviat on June 8 when a fire burned down a garage belonging to the hamlet. (PHOTO BY BOBBY SULUK/ ARVIAT FB NEWS)
Black smoke rises up into the sky above Arviat on June 8 when a fire burned down a garage belonging to the hamlet. (PHOTO BY BOBBY SULUK/ ARVIAT FB NEWS)

A fire engulfing a large storage garage in Arviat June 8 resulted from the actions of a young homeless man, say officials in Arviat.

The Arviat Fire Department responded to the three-bay garage fire at 6:06 a.m. on the morning of June 8 but gave up fighting the fierce fire from outside the building. 

Arviat does not have a utilidor system to pipe in water, so five water trucks were brought in, but to no avail.

The hamlet-owned building is now a “write-off,” according to the Arviat senior administrative officer Ed Murphy, who said damages amount to about $1.2 million, an amount that will be covered by the hamlet’s insurance policy.

The fire started when the homeless man found shelter in a broken SUV belonging to the health clinic, which was parked in the garage. He fell asleep shortly after lighting a candle for warmth, but awoke to flames all around him.

He ran outside to the home of RCMP constable Eric Ootoovak, who lives close to the garage. Ootoovak called the fire department immediately.

“At first there was only black smoke, a small fire to begin with,” said Ootoovak. After he called the fire department, he went back to bed, only to find the building completely destroyed when he woke up.

The man, who Ootoovak did not want to name, later admitted to the RCMP that he started it. 

Fire chief Josef Kaviok said the young man’s grandmother suffers from health problems.

“His grandmother has broken hips. She doesn’t have time to chase grandkids,” said Kaviok.

Ootoovak said the man is an adult over the age of 18, and said there is a court order preventing him from living at home with his grandmother.

“We know who he is, we’re quite familiar with him,” said Ootoovak. “He’s no harm to anyone. He’s a bit slow. He’s jobless, homeless. I’ve told him to apply to get some jobs, but I doubt that went anywhere.”

The destroyed building was constructed before 1970 but still met fire code safety standards, Murphy said. It stored material like fibre mulch and suppressants.

The building is now in the process of being fully demolished.

Hamlet council will discuss construction of a new storage facility at their next meeting on June 26.

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