'Nobody cared': Upset neighbour questions emergency crews after Norman Wells fire

'Nobody cared': Upset neighbour questions emergency crews after Norman Wells fire

The next-door neighbour of a home destroyed by fire in Norman Wells, N.W.T., says emergency crews failed to try and evacuate her home and she's questioning their training.

"Nobody came and woke us up. Nobody evacuated my home," said Colleen Stevens, who says she, her son and her pets were sleeping Sunday morning when the fire started.

"I want answers. I'm really, really upset that nobody cared about my life or my son's life."

Police got a call about a house fire at 7:23 a.m. on Sunday, states a Monday news release from the RCMP. Police said fire crews were on the scene within minutes and prevented the fire from spreading. RCMP and the fire marshal are investigating.

Submitted by Colleen Stevens

A local witness told CBC Sunday that they saw crews knocking on Stevens's home, waking her up.

But Stevens, whose home is among three log houses on Franklin Avenue, says that was in fact a friend — not an emergency crew member.

I didn't know if our houses were going to explode. - Colleen Stevens, neighbour

"I was woken up by a friend banging my door and another friend calling me," she said. "I opened my bedroom window to look outside, and I saw two firefighters ... and they were literally shocked to see that I was in my home."

Stevens said her home is just a few metres from the house that caught on fire. A fuel tank also sits between the two homes.

Watch the video of the fire next to the fuel tank from Stevens's home

"I was scared," she said. "I didn't know if our houses were going to explode."

Stevens said she and her son got dressed and exited the house — but no one seemed to notice.

"Nobody even acknowledged me — not one firefighter, not the mayor, not the RCMP."

The home that was on fire was excavated later Sunday morning. Though no official spoke to her about her home's safety, Stevens said she returned at about 5 p.m. to check if her power and water were working. 

Why was our safety not a concern to not one firefighter in this town? Or to our mayor? Or to the RCMP? - Colleen Stevens, neighbour

Because the log homes are public housing, Stevens said she phoned the housing authority manager and was given an OK to stay. She says no official has communicated with her about safety since the fire.

"Nobody has even spoke to me to this moment, except for CBC," said Stevens.

Submitted by Wing Sham

Calling a town council meeting

"I want to know what the protocols are for the fire department ... I don't think that they're properly trained," Stevens said. 

"Why were we not woken up and evacuated from our home? Why was our safety not a concern to not one firefighter in this town? Or to our mayor? Or to the RCMP? Why was nobody, except for my friend, concerned for the safety of my son and my pets?" 

Stevens said she's trying to get hold of the mayor to hold a town council meeting about the matter.

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC in an email that police were "only assisting" fire crews, and to ask the local fire department about its fire evacuation protocols.

CBC requested comment from the mayor's office and the local fire detachment several times since Monday morning, but no calls and emails were returned.

The Town of Norman Wells posted a statement Monday evening on its website, stating that "life safety — for the firefighter, then for the house involved ... then for the neighbouring house" is its first priority.

The statement says one fire officer "delegated the evacuation of the neighbouring houses to two bystanders upon arrival."

In the statement, the mayor claims to have spoken with "the neighbour," asking about the safety of her pets. Stevens was not named in the statement.