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Unit damaged in Fort Simpson fire
President of Fort Simpson Metis Nation breaks ankle while escaping burning building

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, July 18, 2013

One unit in a triplex was heavily damaged and one person was injured following a fire on July 13 in Fort Simpson.

NNSL photo/graphic

One unit in a triplex located off Mackenzie Drive in Fort Simpson was heavily damaged during a fire on July 13. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

The Fort Simpson Volunteer Fire Department received the call about a fire in a triplex on a cul-de-sac off Mackenzie Drive at 6:15 a.m. on July 13. Black smoke from the fire could be seen at the fire hall, said Roger Pilling, the village's volunteer fire chief.

It's not clear at this point what caused the fire, he said. The fire appears to have originated on an outside corner on the southwest side of the building.

Before the department arrived, the fire melted the hose running from a propane tank to a barbecue located near the building, which accelerated the fire.

"The propane tank acted like a big blow torch," he said.

When eight members of the department arrived, the fire was burning on that side of the building, the soffits under the roof were fully engulfed and the fire was spreading to the roof itself, said Pilling.

There were at least two people in the unit at the time of the fire, he said.

Marie Lafferty, the unit's tenant, suffered a broken ankle while escaping the building. Lafferty is the president of the Fort Simpson Metis Nation.

Lafferty, who was sitting outside on a lawn chair when the department arrived, was transported to the Fort Simpson health centre by a bystander while the firefighters worked on the fire. She was later medevaced to Edmonton.

Firefighters attacked the fire from the corner, and once it was under control, put up a ladder to address the fire in the roof and stop it from spreading into the other two units in the building, he said. Most of the fire damage to the building was on the outside.

"Inside the building wasn't really burning," Pilling said.

The weight of water, however, caused the ceiling and joists to collapse into Lafferty's apartment. The unit also suffered water damage.

There was minimal damage to the other two apartments, Pilling said. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation owns the triplex and it is managed by the Fort Simpson Housing Authority.

As of July 16, none of the three tenants were using their apartments because the fire damaged the joint boiler and mechanical room, said Chris Hewitt, the corporation's district director.

Although the barbecue hasn't been identified as the cause of the fire, Pilling said residents shouldn't keep barbecues directly beside their houses. If the barbecue and propane tank hadn't been there, the damage caused by the fire wouldn't have been so extensive, he said.

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