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Some cargo lost in blaze

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services
Monday, March 19, 2007

IQALUIT - On the morning of March 10, the odor of burned materials wafted through the air.

Curious Iqalummiut only had to look towards the airport to see what was behind the smell: the Canadian North warehouse was burning.

'We received the call at 5:49 a.m., and the building had large plumes of black smoke coming from it on arrival,' said Iqaluit Fire Chief Greg Jewers.

Smoke continued to pour from the building even after the fire department left at 5:30 p.m.

'There was still some smoke coming off a pallet of phone books,' explained Jewers.

A departmental investigation has ruled out arson as a cause.

There were 15 firefighters on the scene all day, and Jewers described the firefighting plan as a 'defensive attack.'

'Knowing the contents of the warehouse included dangerous goods, we were very cautious,' the fire chief said. 'We knew that there were propane tanks on the forklifts. About 20 minutes after we arrived, they went.'

Iqaluit's airport is a large yellow building located just feet away from where the fire raged most of Saturday.

'The airport terminal was never in any danger. We had help from the two airport fire trucks, and one of those has a 3,000-gallon tank,' said Jewers.

The effect of the warehouse blaze was localized to Iqaluit, according to Canadian North.

'The majority of the freight going to other communities had already been moved to our partners Kenn Borek,' said Kelly Kaylo, the airline's vice-president of marketing.

'Our biggest concern right now is working with people who lost things. We have the warehouse insured and the cargo is insured,' said Kaylo.

Canadian North sent seven additional staff members from Yellowknife to Iqaluit on Monday, including president Tom Ruth, to help with sorting out the contents of the warehouse,

For now, customers can pick up freight at the temporary facility at 1559B Federal Road. They can also call Canadian North to speak to staff about missing items. Claim forms are available on the Canadian North website, under 'Iqaluit Cargo Information.'

Canadian North wouldn't estimate how long cargo claims would take.

That leaves Krista Belliveau wondering what to do about her booze order. For the first time ever, she ordered from the Rankin Inlet warehouse, for herself and a group of friends.

While she'll likely be reimbursed for her losses, she's puzzled as to why she has to ship her wine and spirits by air from the Kivalliq in the first place, especially when there's a liquor warehouse in the capital.

'Why can't we order booze from Iqaluit? It's right here,' Belliveau said.

- with files from Chris Windeyer