5 families temporarily homeless after fire destroys building in Iqaluit

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5 families temporarily homeless after fire destroys building in Iqaluit

A family managed to rescue a bag of sealskin kamiit (boots), but little else from a house fire that left them and four other families homeless on Monday night.

The fire destroyed a 5-plex near Joamie School in Iqaluit. It burned for about 12 hours, before firefighters demolished the building Tuesday morning.

Helen Ell-Natakok and her husband George Natakok had a chance to sift through the ruined remains Tuesday afternoon, but much of what they saw was unsalvageable — the water from the firefighters' hoses having frozen it all together.

Their kids and Ell-Natakok's mother, Veronica Ell, who's visiting, had time to grab very little. They left their home with only what was in their pockets, Ell-Natakok says.

She wasn't home at the time of the fire, so she was unable to save any of her photos, jewellery, ulus or her family's IDs.

But in the wreckage, was one item that she says made the rest of the losses bearable.

"There was this bag my mom wanted so bad. I did not sleep throughout the night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw that bag, because in that bag was little kamiit [boots] that she'd made as well as a pair that she's making for me, so as soon as I saw that bag everything was not important anymore."

'How am I going to buy 6 people clothing?'

All night, Ell-Natakok says she went back and forth between the hotel and the building, trying to determine if her home would survive. She says around 5 a.m. it became clear it would not, but still she could not sleep for any length of time.

All Tuesday, her phone kept ringing with community members reaching out to help.

Donations for the families were accepted at the Catholic Parish Hall that afternoon and continue to be accepted at Capital Suites.

"I thought how am I going to buy six people clothing? How am I going to get all what they need? But throughout the day people having been ... bringing clothing and all we need," she said.

Ell-Natakok says she hoping her employer, the government of Nunavut, will be able to rehouse her, but says she doesn't know how long that will take.

For now, she says, the donations have been a comfort.  

There were no injuries reported after the incident and the cause of the fire is now being investigated, according to the Iqaluit fire department.