McCauley Place was evacuated early June 3 after a group of individuals lit a fire underneath the building.
An eyewitness told Inuvik Drum a tenant of the building, also known as Teepee Apartments, called the fire department after smelling smoke rising up through their window.
“Fire crews on site, all out and being ensured out,” said tenant Edward Wright. “All tenants got out and eventually mustered until each were escorted to individual units by Fire members.”
Wright said normally the building underbelly is protected by chicken wire surrounding the base. However, a section had fallen down and the individuals were able to get under the building and start a fire.
No injuries were reported and an investigation is underway.
Wright added firefighters had swept the building and escorted tenants back to their apartments when it was safe.
“Scary times again,” said Wright. “Kids on the loose.”
Town of Inuvik fire chief Cynthia Hammond said Inuvik Firefighters were dispatched at 6:58 a.m. Witnesses at the time reported two children under the building and the building was already in the process of evacuation.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire quickly, and the fire was declared out at 7:04 a.m. As a precaution, firefighters also inspected the Chief Jim Koe building to ensure no combustion was occurring there either. In total, 11 firefighters and three vehicles were dispatched to the emergency. No children were found on scene.
A second fire on the shore of Twin Lakes was reported at 8:28 a.m. which firefighters responded to. That fire was put out by 8:48 a.m. Hammond said it was undetermined if the two fires were related or not.
NWT RCMP media relations officer Marie York-Condon confirmed police responded to a fire and said it was determined to have been started by youth.
”Inuvik RCMP attended a call for service to a structure fire on Mackenzie Road,” she said. “A small fire was located underneath the building and was extinguished by police and the Inuvik Fire Department.
“There were no injuries and no damage to the building. An investigation determined the fire was caused by youth who were later educated on fire safety.”
Hammond confirmed RCMP located two youths, both under the age of 12, who are alleged to have started the fire. She also commended the tenant who alerted emergency services of the fire, who initiated the evacuation and helped the fire department ensure everyone was safe.
She noted that the children weren’t the only youths wandering around town in the early morning and parents had a responsibility to ensure their children are conducting themselves in a safe and responsible manner. She added parents should educate their children on the dangers of starting fires, ensure matches and lighters are inaccessible to children and encourage children to contact emergency services if they witness unsafe behaviour, especially behaviour that could threaten people’s safety and/or property.
“Both Inuvik Fire and the RCMP are concerned about these events,” she said in a statement. “The fire under the apartment building put the tenants at serious risk to health and life, in addition to damaging property.The consequences could have had much more tragic.
“It should be noted that several groups of children were observed to be in the area, not only at the time of the fire, but throughout the night and early morning. We recognize that while mostly innocent, groups of children may also create a situation where peer pressure affects a child’s ability to make safe decisions.”
Last summer, a series of abandoned row houses went up in flames after a group of children lit a fire inside of it. That led to a neighbourhood evacuation and the building was ultimately demolished.