Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit September 05, 2012 - 7:19 am

Iqaluit fire chief calls Sept. 3 fire-fighting effort a success

“This was fine work by our crews, that’s for sure”

DAVID MURPHY
This is how the inside of a charred unit in building 133 in Iqaluit looked Sept. 4, after a Sept. 3 fire. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
This is how the inside of a charred unit in building 133 in Iqaluit looked Sept. 4, after a Sept. 3 fire. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

The charred innards of building 133A are witness to the result of a successfully fought fire, says Iqaluit’s new fire chief Luc Grandmaison.

The Sept. 3 fire, the first major conflagration to take place since Grandmaison’s arrival, could have spread to other dwellings if firefighters hadn’t arrived when they did.

At 10:52 p.m. on Sept. 3, a neighbour called emergency services to report a fire next door.

Residents of building 133, which contains four units, desperately tried to put the fire out themselves with half a dozen fire extinguishers, but to no avail.

Fire crews arrived on the scene shortly after 11 p.m.

“What they were faced with was fire shooting out of the main entrance but also from in the rear window, flames were shooting out,” Grandmaison said Sept.  4.

But when the firefighters tried to hook their hoses up to the nearest water source, the fire hydrant broke down.

That meant firefighters had to rush to the next fire hydrant, roughly 150 metres away.

To make matters worse, a stiff wind was feeding the flames.

The 11 firefighters and five volunteer firefighters hacked down the doors and blasted the second floor of the apartment with water. They wanted to prevent the fire from entering the attic so that the flames wouldn’t spread.

It took 15 minutes to “knock the flames down.” Then, their job was to rip into the drywall to find potential sparks that might reignite the fire.

While the inside of the apartment was completely gutted by the blaze, the apartment adjacent to it was almost untouched, with very minor smoke damage.

Fortunately nobody was hurt, and the fire was fully contained after 1 a.m. that night.

The losses in the fire are estimated to reach $60,000. The Nunavut Housing Corp. owns the building, located on the road that leads to the cemetery.

Everyone in the building had to be evacuated for the night, as power was cut to the four dwellings as a safety precaution — and flames had charred power lines.

An investigation is currently under way to determine the cause of the fire. One person was on the property when the fire began, although not in the apartment that burned, Grandmaison said.

For Grandmaison, the Sept. 3 fire serves as a perfect example of his long-term strategy in fighting fires in Iqaluit.

“The main concern is, even though there’s a fire, the goal is to prevent the fire from spreading,” he said.

“We’ll look into the fire report and analyze the fire. Then we’ll think what we need to do better, and brainstorm how we operate. It’s basically part of the training — but this was fine work by our crews, that’s for sure,” Grandmaison said.

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