Water didn't come easy as Fort Resolution, N.W.T., battled weekend duplex fire

An N.W.T. fire helicopter drops water on a burning duplex in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., on Saturday. (Submitted by Louis Balsillie - image credit)
An N.W.T. fire helicopter drops water on a burning duplex in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., on Saturday. (Submitted by Louis Balsillie - image credit)

Having enough water to fight a residential fire was a challenge in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., over the weekend.

The issue was raised during an exchange at the Legislative Assembly on Monday, where both an MLA and a territorial minister described what it took to douse a fire that had destroyed a pair of duplexes in the hamlet — a total of four homes — on Saturday.

Richard Edjericon, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, said intake lines that feed the community's water plant are near the surface of Great Slave Lake because of the lake's low water. Those lines struggled to keep with demand, he said, and N.W.T. fire helicopters helped put out the fire with buckets of water.

Vince McKay, the territory's minister of municipal and community affairs, said the water plant was operating as designed but with a capacity for 129,000 litres of water. He said the 60,000 litres needed for fighting a fire was an "exceptional amount of water."

He said a water tanker truck from Hay River had been sent to the hamlet on Saturday to help.

Asked whether the N.W.T. government would move Fort Resolution's water intake lines further into the lake, McKay said that it was looking into establishing a bypass so that water could be used first for firefighting when needed.

"Also, we are looking at other options for getting water off the lake in case of an emergency," McKay said.

The fire started around 5 a.m. Saturday, according to a pair of residents who live in the area. Deninu Kųę́ Chief Louis Balsillie, who is also the community's deputy fire chief, told CBC News firefighters didn't leave the scene until well in the afternoon.

Edjericon said two firefighters were hurt fighting the fire. One was suffering from smoke inhalation, he said, and another told CBC News he broke his femur and was medevaced to Yellowknife for surgery.

Earlier this year, Fort Resolution barely had a volunteer firefighting department.

Municipal administrator Shawn Stuckey, who was appointed to oversee the hamlet in 2023, told CBC News in March it had grown from having just 2 members to having six or seven. Eight members had resigned over a dispute in 2021.

At the time, he said the municipality was organizing first aid and level one firefighter training.

In Monday's exchange in the legislature, Ederjicon said the local fire department had "been vocal" about how a lack of training could lead to an unsafe situation. He also asked McKay whether the Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA)  department would rebuild the duplexes and what was being done to cover the firefighters' injuries and loss of work.

McKay said the N.W.T.'s housing agency was "leading the work" on the homes that were lost, and MACA was looking into whether insurance would support the firefighters who'd been hurt.