Neighbours praising Inuvik woman who alerted row house tenants to fire

·4 min read

Early in the morning last Friday, Marissa Murphy and her partner were asleep in bed when they heard "aggressive banging" on the doors and windows of their home in Inuvik, N.W.T.

"We were kind of scared we didn't know what was going on … as soon as I got downstairs I could see that the whole street was filled with smoke and people were running around, and somebody was at my door looking very panicked," said Murphy.

"She was saying that there was a fire and we need to leave."

That woman was Murphy's neighbour from across the street, Elise Decarie-Jean, who is being praised by the other tenants for her courage when she stopped to wake up people sleeping during the fire.

'You could feel the heat'

No one was injured during the fire on Natala Drive, but there was significant damage to the four-unit townhouses, which included Murphy's unit.

Decarie-Jean said she was getting ready for work when she went outside and saw dense smoke. In the past, she has smelled the wood stove burning from the unit where the fire started, but this time was different. That morning, it also smelled like chemicals, and she realized it was a bigger fire.

Outside, another woman was calling the fire department, but Decarie-Jean noticed no one else was standing outside and she thought people might still be asleep.

I would've never woken up without them pounding on the door - Jerry Lennie-Inglangasuk, resident

"That's when I dropped my bags and went to the first door closer to the unit on fire because it was too smoky to go to the first unit where the fire started," said Decarie-Jean.

She knocked on the windows and doors of two of the units on both sides of the building. She said someone else had alerted the person in the fourth unit.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Murphy, who is new to Inuvik and has only been living in her home since September, praises Decarie-Jean's actions.

"I just went into pure adrenaline mode," Murphy said.

"I have four parrots and two rabbits. I wasn't exactly prepared to do something, but luckily I had a couple of carriers in the room and I just kinda shoved them in the carriers and we ran out. I was still in PJs."

Murphy, her partner and animals all waited at Decarie-Jean's house as they figured out what to do.

"It was just incredible the heroism that it took to go and to make sure that everyone was awake and that the fire department was called. It could've been really dangerous," said Murphy.

I don't think anyone would've been able to stand there and do nothing. - Elise Decarie-Jean, resident

Jerry Lennie-Inglangasuk and his partner live in one of the units Decarie-Jean knocked on.

"My room was right behind where the fire was, and that was full of smoke already," said Lennie-Inglangasuk.

"You could feel the heat … I would've never woken up without them pounding on the door … true northerners."

Fire being investigated

Both Lennie-Inglangasuk and Murphy say the unit where the fire started doesn't have power. They say the person living there creates his own heat, which they suspect is either a generator or wood stove.

They also say this isn't the first time the fire department has been called to the unit; sparks were flying from the same unit's chimney back in November.

"I feel really ticked off because he endangered my family," said Lennie-Inglangasuk.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond confirmed to CBC that the fire is still under investigation.

Lennie-Inglangasuk, whose granddaughter lives in the fourth row house, says the units are still out of water and they have all been cleaning tirelessly due to the smoke damage.

He couldn't be more thankful to Decarie-Jean, and gave her a painting to express his gratitude.

"I would just like to thank them for saving my life, and my granddaughter's life, and my family's life," said Lennie-Inglangasuk.

But for Decarie-Jean, she says anyone would've done the same thing if they were in her position.

"What else would you have done? I don't think anyone would've been able to stand there and do nothing," said Decarie-Jean.

"You do good, and you receive good."