Keno City, Yukon, gets some new fire equipment after local outcry

A Yukon wildland fire truck and firefighting equipment has been delivered to Keno City, Yukon, by the territorial government. (Yukon government - image credit)
A Yukon wildland fire truck and firefighting equipment has been delivered to Keno City, Yukon, by the territorial government. (Yukon government - image credit)

Keno City, Yukon, has some new equipment that's meant to help the community respond more quickly to a fire.

It comes more than two years after the iconic Keno City Hotel was destroyed by fire, and outcry from some local residents who said their small, remote town was without adequate local fire protection.

The Yukon government has now supplied the Keno City with a wildland fire management pickup truck for the winter, and some basic safety gear. Six local residents have also been trained to provide some initial response to a fire.

"They're not firefighters, they're fire support workers," said Devin Bailey, with the Yukon Fire Marshals office, about the six trained volunteers.

"Their job is primarily to make sure that the public is safe around the fire."

Bailey said the truck comes with a 400-gallon water tank, a pump, and some other safety gear such as pylons, safety vests and caution tape.

That way, the local volunteers can provide some basic fire response before other resources arrive from another community where there's a volunteer fire department and more firefighting resources.

Kevin O'Hara/Facebook
Kevin O'Hara/Facebook

"For communities that don't have the capacity to come up with eight volunteers to support a fire program, we designed this scene safety response unit program," Bailey said.

Bailey said if there's a fire, the "scene safety responders" will be first on the scene and then able to give firefighters "a detailed scene size-up" when they get there.

"So when they arrive on scene they'll be able to more effectively manage the incident. And in the meantime, [the local responders] have enough water to spray down structures surrounding where the main fire is, to try and keep the fire from spreading to adjacent structures."

'Fire protection in a box'

The program is based on a recommendation from a review of Yukon fire services in 2021, after the Keno City Hotel fire. That review recommended a "fire protection in a box" concept for small communities like Keno.

The idea, the report says, is to "provide small remote communities with the tools internally to provide neighbour-to-neighbour assistance in the event of fire when there is no capacity to staff a volunteer fire department."

Bailey said the government is now working with the community of Ross River to establish a similar program there. He also suggested it could work in places such as Pelly Crossing, Mendenhall or Beaver Creek.

Mike Mancini, a long-time resident of Keno City, welcomed the new equipment in his community.

"Anything is better than nothing," he said.

"Any of the training that we've had over the years … it's timing you know — the sooner you get to the fire, the better chance you have of at least attempting to get it out."