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High rise on the mend
Fire marshal says Mackenzie Place has improved, but not yet in compliance

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 15, 2014

As of last month, there is a new temporary fire alarm system in the Mackenzie Place high rise, bringing the building one step closer to being safe.

"It's not an easy thing for an owner to accomplish," said NWT Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar. "It took a brand new system, he couldn't just fix a few things with the old one."

According to e-mails obtained by The Hay River Hub through access to information legislation, the safety of residents of the high rise was a growing concern back in September.

"The fire drill has been completed at the high rise as of this morning (Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014) and the results were not good," Hay River Fire Chief Ross Potter wrote to Dewar Sept. 7 in an e-mail prefacing the report of an inspection on the building.

While many floors were deemed "all good," the first three were plagued by broken lights, uncovered electricity outlets and faulty emergency doors.

Perhaps of most concern was the addition of both residential and storage units to the first floor, for which no permits were sought, and that violating building and fire codes.

"Found that the area in question has been developed into what appears to be storage units and a residential unit. This was done without permits from the town and without plan review by FMO (fire marshal's office) It is unlikely that any of the sprinklers within the area are to code with the introduction of walls," states Potter's report.

In response, Dewar sent a letter to Harry Satdeo, the building's owner, detailing the issues and informing him that Mackenzie Place was still not in compliance with the order issued July 18.

"I must advise you that at this point I am seriously considering changing the use of the high rise, causing the eviction of all tenants and staff members of Satdeo should Satdeo not be capable of providing basic life safety requirements to my satisfaction," he wrote Sept. 3.

Two months later, Dewar said Satdeo was well on his way to fixing the problems.

"The owner is being co-operative," he told The Hub last week. "He's engaged the right people to address the deficiencies. What I'm seeing here is demonstrative co-operation, he's making significant changes."

Blaine Maillet recently stepped into the position of manager for the building and estimated the work needed to fulfill the July 18 order was about 90 per cent complete.

"The balconies are all shut down for the winter, and several of them will need to be repaired in the spring," he said. "It's been going good the fire system is all back in and up and running."

According to Potter's report, the fire drill conducted Sept. 7 was a dismal failure. Unfortunately, Dewar said, one of the problems isn't one his office can fix.

"Many tenants were just opening their doors, saying it was just a drill, and refusing to leave," he said in reference to the abysmally small number of people who

evacuated the building that Sunday morning.

In the absence of a proper fire alarm, Satdeo went through the corridors on each floor with a loud-speaker, informing people of a need to leave the building.

Whether because they hadn't heard the warning at all or simply decided not to heed it, only a handful of the building's estimated 150 residents made it outside.

"There's not much I can do to address that," said Dewar. "In the event of a real emergency, I'm not going to put anyone at risk trying to get people out if they refuse to leave."

Despite improvements, Dewar did note that the building is still not in compliance with the order issued this summer. Although he is not acting to condemn the building as of last week, he said it remains a possibility.

"We always have to keep that option open," he said.

"If circumstances change and the building remains in non-compliance and the owner for whatever reason can't get the work done, we would have to consider it."

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