A remote northern Ontario Cree community expects to receive a fire truck in the next week. It will arrive two months after a child died in a fire.
In late January, a 10-year-old girl in the community of Peawanuck died in a house fire. At the time, the community of around 200 people near the Hudson Bay coast didn’t have access to fire services or basic firefighting equipment.
Sam Hunter, a councillor with Weenusk First Nation, which includes Peawanuck, said the fire truck has been ready for around a week, and they are just waiting for the winter road to the community to be ready so the vehicle can be driven from Winnipeg to the community.
“We’ll feel a lot safer having a fire truck that big, that will contain enough water to be able to put out a fire, especially with the size of the houses that we have there under 1,000 square feet,” Hunter said.
Hunter said the small community has never had sufficient resources to deal with house fires.
In 1995, he lost his two sons to a fire.
“There could have been a chance to save my boys. We had time,” he said.
“If there are going to be any future incidents, it means a lot to me and to the community.”
No fire hall yet
Hunter said the community will have to park the fire truck in a vacant warehouse for at least the next year.
The community plans to build a proper fire hall, but still needs to bring in engineers to sign off on the structure they have planned.
“Sometimes a temporary thing becomes something that’s going to be used for a long time,” Hunter said.
“We just don’t want that to happen.”
In the meantime, Hunter said the community plans for four people to get immediate training on how to use the fire truck, so they can start using it right away.
Winnipeg-based Fort Garry Fire Trucks built the fire pumper, and plans for one of their drivers to deliver it to the community. That driver will also train local volunteers how to use it.
Bob Lock, the company’s regional sales manager for northern Ontario, said they’ve delivered similar fire trucks to around 31 First Nations across Canada.
He said the model Peawanuck ordered is a standard pumper apparatus that is relatively easy to operate.
“It’s nothing exotic,” he said.
“It’s the basic truck that will do efficiently the work they need it to do.”
Indigenous Services Canada purchased the truck for the community in January 2022, at a cost of $506,640.
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