Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 27, 2012 - 1:57 am

Fire destroys Iqaluit rowhouse block, scores evacuated

“It’s always devastating. These are people’s homes"

JANE GEORGE
Firefighters struggle to contain a fire in a rowhouse unit at the end of the 300-section of the Creekside Village complex in downtown Iqaluit shortly after midnight on Feb. 27. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Firefighters struggle to contain a fire in a rowhouse unit at the end of the 300-section of the Creekside Village complex in downtown Iqaluit shortly after midnight on Feb. 27. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

"We left everything behind," says Andrew Arreak of Pond Inlet, an environmental technology student at Arctic College, who left his unit in the 300 block with his girlfriend Jenna and their two young daughters. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

(updated, Feb. 27, 2:45 a.m.)

Shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 27, flames continued to spiral high above the 300 block of Creekside Village in Iqaluit, after a fire that started just before 10 p.m. on Feb. 26 resisted the efforts of firefighters fighting to contain the blaze in the midst of -50 C windchills.

At about 10 p.m., the first fire alarms alerted residents of the 22 three-bedroom units that make up the 300 block of rowhouses, all but one occupied by Nunavut Arctic College students and their families.

They first evacuated to the Nunavut Arctic College building and then to the Frobisher Inn, on the hill overlooking the blaze, where by 12:30 a.m. Feb. 27, 18 rooms had been handed out.

At the Frobisher Inn, the RCMP continued to check of names of residents who arrived from a complete list of all tenants.

Police urged residents of the 300 block of row houses to come to the lobby of the Frobisher Inn to hear more updates and to call the RCMP at 979-1111 to provide the RCMP with their location, so all residents can be accounted for.

By midnight, Andrew Arreak of Pond Inlet, an environmental technology student at Arctic College, his girlfriend Jenna, and their two young daughters, had settled down in a room at the Frobisher Inn.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t burn,” Arreak, a resident of unit 314, said about his family’s home, as he clutched a container of baby formula and a bottle that someone had dropped off for his baby.

Meanwhile, at the backside of the 300 block, a handful of firefighters shot up water into a window full of flames inching towards Arreak’s unit.

In the lobby of the Frobisher Inn — owned by Nunastar, the same company that owns Creekside Village, a grim Don S. Chenier, the general manager of Nunastar, and Gord Durnford, rental officer, watched the fire on a computer screen from a remote camera below the flames.

Electrical power had been cut off to at least one other block of units in the Creekside complex, so they were unable to see the fire close-up.

But their view was disheartening enough: flames shooting above the level of the block closest to the street,  black smoke spewing into the sky, and water from the firefighters cutting a path through the ice as it streamed down a slope.

“Everyone has gotten out,” Chenier said, watching the fire. “That’s all the matters right now.”

The 96-unit Creekside complex, which until recently was known informally as “White Row housing” dates back to about 1970. The complex hugs the space between a hill and the road that circles the centre of Iqaluit.

The units were completely retrofitted a year and a half ago with fire resistant materials, Chenier said. 

Also at the Frobisher Inn, Madeleine Redfern, the mayor of Iqaluit, who said she hoped the fire could be contained.

The victims of the fire can expect assistance from the Red Cross, she said.

By 1:30 a.m., plans were underway to accommodate scores of evacuees at the Frobisher Inn and NAC’s Ukkivik residence.

“It’s always devastating,” Redfern said of the fire. “These are people’s homes.”

At 2:30 a.m. firefighters stationed themselves at the end of the row house. They sprayed water on to the side wall of the building to stop the fire from jumping to another set of row houses next door. Black smoke furled up from the fire, blown north over parts of the city and above Frobisher Bay.

(more to come)

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share

 THIS WEEK’S ADS

 ADVERTISING