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Derelict buildings closed down
Fire Marshal posts eviction notices on Kugmallit Road properties

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, August 29, 2013

The NWT Fire Marshal's office has lowered the boom on the long-contentious townhouses located on Kugmallit Road near the Blueberry Patch.

NNSL photo/graphic

Inuvik Fire Chief Jim Sawkins was helping Rick Lindsay of the NWT Fire Marshal's office post eviction and closure notices on several townhouses on the corner on Kugmallit Road Aug. 23. The units were previously the subject of a fire marshal's order and have been considered a public eyesore for years. Several of the units showed signs of being used as residences. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

On Aug. 23, local fire marshal representative Rick Lindsay and Inuvik Fire Chief Jim Sawkins posted eviction notices on the buildings.

A few of the units are still being used as residences, and those people had until 4 p.m. Aug. 23 to vacate the premises. Other, supposedly uninhabited, units were officially declared closed as well as the ones in use.

Lindsay, who had been muzzled by his superiors in May, was more than willing to discuss the situation.

"We have an office in Yellowknife that's our legal people and they are looking at all the options in the big picture," Lindsay said. "We don't want things to happen like has happened in the past when the ball got dropped.

"This should have been taken care of years ago," he said. "Now we're playing catch-up. We've got a good team of people who are working on this and it's not going to go away. It's just not."

Lindsay said the site presents a clear and significant public safety hazard.

"This is very, very unsafe, let alone unhealthy and all the 'uns' you could stack up in a pile," he said. "It's got to be taken care of and we've got to get it done."

After all of the residents have left the buildings, the fire marshal order includes a month-end deadline to secure the buildings and put security in place, Lindsay said.

"Anybody violating the order will be charged," if they're found in the buildings, he explained.

The GNWT, via the fire marshal's office, will pay for the work as necessary, which will then be billed to the owner.

"We're collecting a bill, because ultimately it's the owner who's responsible for the costs," Lindsay said.

Many of the derelict buildings are frequently used by homeless people as temporary refuges and young people looking to party, Sawkins said.

For years, the town has been trying to get the buildings shut down and either cleaned up or torn down. Last May, the townhouses were placed under an order from the Fire Marshal's office with a list of mandatory repairs that haven't been carried


More than a month ago, town councillors expressed concerns that people had moved back into the buildings, which all have the same owner.

Lindsay and Sawkins expressed complete and utter disgust at the conditions they found while closing the units down and speaking to the only resident who would come to the door.

"In one unit we found a large amount of blood and feces," Sawkins said. "And that was one that people were still using."

As they posted the notices, Sawkins and Lindsay carefully documented every infraction of health and safety they found, and the list was a long one.

In one of the sections still being used by residents, not far from the ambulance bay, the sewer pipes on the utilidor had become disconnected. A steady stream of what they said was septic waste was pumped out of the unit every three minutes of so, forming a pool on the low-lying ground.

That discovery means the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be called in to evaluate the situation.

In another spot, many of the pilings supporting the structure were not in contact with the building.

"I could put my head right through some of the gaps," Sawkins said.

A gasoline jerry can was also found underneath debris in the area, although it appeared to be empty.

The ground was littered with shards of glass from broken windows. Unsecured doors gaped open. Access panels to the under-structure of the houses were not secured and showed signs of being lived in.

Even doors that were closed didn't fit properly or were broken.

In many units, holes had been smashed in the fire walls separating them so that people could roam freely throughout the buildings. That's a clear fire hazard, Sawkins said.

Lindsay and Sawkins said these items were all matters which should have been addressed by the earlier order. The units were supposed to have been secured, so that intruders couldn't conveniently get in, and fenced off, as is the case in the nearby Blueberry Patch.

"That's the way it's supposed to be done," Sawkins said.

Last month, a series of fires occurred in the buildings, adding to the problem.

As well as the eviction and closure notices, the employees from the town's bylaw department, managed by Sawkins, were busy checking out derelict vehicles and laying charges over hazardous materials, such as car batteries lying around.

"We're going to try to get (the owner) on as many things as we can," Sawkins said.

The buildings are owned by a numbered company.

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