The NWT fire marshal has approved an access plan to allow displaced residents of the Mackenzie Place highrise to enter the fire-damaged building for a second time to retrieve their belongings.
And according to information posted online by Satdeo Inc., the owner of the building, the controlled access began on April 6 and will run to May 2. There will be access to four suites each day beginning on the top floor and working downwards.
NWT Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar said an order issued by his office includes monitored and controlled temporary access by residents.
Dewar said he asked Satdeo Inc. to provide an access plan, and he stipulated some requirements.
“So they’ve provided me with that plan and that plan is now approved,” he said late last week. “They’ve been authorized to proceed with that plan.”
Displaced residents were briefly allowed back into the building on March 20 and 21 for 15 minutes or so each to obtain important personal items such as identification, driver’s licences, medication and a wide variety of other items – basically anything they could carry or move in shopping carts.
That earlier access was organized by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).
Overall, the fire marshal has ordered Mackenzie Place to be closed to the public with some exceptions.
Dewar said the order was issued basically because of water damage from the firefighting effort.
“It’s taken out the fire alarm system and it’s damaged some fire separations and the fire floor also has some additional damage as a result of the fire,” he said.
The fire occurred on the 11th floor of the building.
The fire marshal’s order permits people to enter the highrise to repair the damage, but there has to be a fire watch in place to monitor the building.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the fire continues.
Marie York-Condon, a spokesperson for the RCMP’s ‘G’ Division, said there were no updates on the investigation as of late last week.
“At this time, we don’t have any indication whether it is or is not suspicious,” she said of the fire. “The investigation is ongoing. We can’t definitively say yes it is suspicious or no it is not suspicious.”
In an ad in the April 3 Hub, building owner Harry Satdeo addressed the approximately 125 displaced residents of the highrise.
“I sincerely regret the displacement and inconvenience the Highrise fire has caused you and your families,” Satdeo wrote. “While we await reports from all government agencies, Satdeo Inc. is endeavouring to remedy the damage caused by the recent fire in the building. We are hoping to have the situation corrected within two months.”
Satdeo informed tenants that they can terminate their leases by giving written notice, although he added, “Under this financial constraint, we request tenants who owe rent to please square up their dues.”
As of last week, the displaced people were in various accommodations. Some had found other apartments, some were staying with family and friends, some were in hotels, and others were in the Dene Wellness and Development Centre on the Hay River Reserve.
“That is fluid pretty much every day right now as folks are trying to find longer-term accommodation,” said MACA Deputy Minister Eleanor Young.
She noted that 15 people were still at the Dene Wellness and Development Centre as of late last week.
That was a decrease from the 22 people who were accommodated there a week earlier.
“As much as possible, we’re trying to find options for people to move into,” said Young.
The deputy minister had no information on when or if Mackenzie Place would reopen.
“At this point, we have to take the owner’s word that he is going to make an attempt to do the repairs and do so in a timely manner,” she said. “Beyond that, we will stay on top of this and prepare for all eventualities because that’s all we can do is just try to support the community in terms of making sure that these folks are looked after for the interim and the longer term.”
There was no insurance on the 16-storey apartment building.
It has about 130 apartments, and 83 of them were rented at the time of the fire.