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Rankin firefighters do outstanding job
Fire in five-unit dwelling contained to originating apartment

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A fire at a five-unit dwelling on 68th Street was contained to one unit with no injuries, thanks to members of the Rankin Inlet Fire Department and the quick actions of a member of the community on the morning of May 29.

NNSL photograph

Rankin Inlet firefighters Amanda Ford, left, and Angnakaluk Maria Friesen execute an effective exterior attack as Deputy Fire Chief Michael Aksadjuak looks on during a structural fire in Rankin on May 29. - photo courtesy of Mark Wyatt

The fire was reported to have broke out around 9 a.m.

Local resident Derek Williams was one of the first people to see smoke coming from the house and got to the scene as fast as he could to see if he could do anything to help.

According to a public thank you to Williams -posted by a member of the Rankin Inlet RCMP, and confirmed by the fire department -once at the house, he saw the homeowner and kids just inside the doorway in apparent shock.

With the help of his wife at the bottom of the stairs, Williams carried the kids to safety one at a time and then made sure no one was left inside.

Fire Chief Mark Wyatt said when he arrived at the scene there were flames coming out of the front bedroom window and a lot of black smoke coming out of the unit's main entrance.

He said, at that point, he had no idea if there was anybody still inside.

"The mother was outside, hysterical, across the street, and seemed to be confused as to where her children were," said Wyatt.

"It was just awesome, just fantastic, that Derek and his wife got the kids out before we arrived, but it would have been nice if one of them had stuck around to let the fire department know there was no one left inside, because that would have completely changed the way we dealt with the fire."

Wyatt said firefighters began battling the blaze from outside, hitting it with water through the bedroom window.

He said the first priority was to get a rescue team inside to search for anyone still in the unit.

"At that point, the mother was insisting her kids were still inside.

"It was pretty hard to get in there due to heavy smoke, a lot of heat and the thermal air at about two-point-five to three feet, so they had to search on their hands and knees without being able to see a darn thing.

"One crew got in about eight feet before they had to come out, but the second crew - we had knocked the fire down a lot more by this time - managed to conduct a search and we confirmed there was no one inside.

"I learned after the fact people knew there was no one left inside, but nobody bothered to tell the fire department."

Chief Wyatt said every minute is precious when battling a blaze.

He said sending rescue teams in to search a burning building that people know was empty, not only puts firefighters at risk needlessly, but, the lost time can result in the loss of the affected unit and, possibly, connected units or dwellings in the immediate vicinity.

The department had 14 people on scene, including Chief Wyatt, and they were back at the station shortly before noon after extinguishing the fire.

As of press time, the cause of the fire remained undetermined following an investigation by the Office of the Fire Marshal and was expected to be ruled as accidental.

A bedroom and the unit's living room were the areas primarily affected by the blaze.

Wyatt said, despite the time delay, the department got the fire under control very quickly.

He said there was absolutely no damage to the one adjacent unit on the right side, save for a little bit of light smoke from when its door was open.

"The men and women of the department did a really great job on the fire," he said, "knocking it down and putting it out before there was any damage to the boiler room on one side and the next unit on the other."

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