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Firefighter numbers returning to normal in Fort Resolution, N.W.T.

Fort Resolution in early September.  (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Fort Resolution in early September. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The number of firefighters in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., is returning to normal after low numbers prompted a mention in the legislature last month and one resident lost his home in a fire.

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon informed fellow MLAs during the Feb. 8 session of the legislature that the community had no firefighters.

Edjericon asked Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Minister Vince McKay to work with the Deninu Kųę́ First Nation chief and council and Arthur Beck, president of the Fort Resolution Métis Government, to put a volunteer fire department and fire plan in place.

The community of 550 people only had two firefighters in early February, according to municipal administrator Shawn Stuckey, who was appointed by MACA in 2023 to oversee the hamlet.

Eight firefighters resigned in 2021 over a dispute with the hamlet's former senior administrative officer over a new communications system.

House fire draws firefighters back to the fire service

On Jan. 9, a resident lost his home and almost his life when a fire erupted in his house, said volunteer firefighter and Deninu Kųę́ First Nation Chief Louis Balsille, who was on the department for 32 years before he resigned in 2021.

No one responded to the fire at first, Balsille said, and then when they did, the firefighters who arrived were not fully qualified.

"I think there were only two or three of the fire department there. I jumped on the fire truck, and I got the fire truck there because they didn't know how to run the pump," he said.

Balsille said that's when he and several others decided to go back to the department, and now there are seven firefighters in the community — although Ballsillie said it has been hard on his health.

"I suffer now with my lungs, because I've been through a few fires," he said. "I attended most of the fires in the community because I'm always there."

Hamlet stepping up recruitment

Stuckey said the hamlet has been doing a lot of recruiting in the community over the last several months that has been paying off for the department..

"There definitely was an issue. I'll say we had internal issues and were short some firefighters," he said. "Right now, I think we're up to six or seven, and I would hope to get up to eight [firefighters]."

Stuckey said the municipality is now organizing first aid and level one firefighter training this spring with the help of Waswanay Consulting.

He also wanted to remind residents to be vigilant and ready in case of an emergency, he said.

"The best prevention for fires is a smoke detector because they warn you long before your nose or anything else," he said. "[Have] a small fire extinguisher in the home, and call 911 if there's an issue."