Home burns to ground after firefighters leave scene

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Inuvik Fire Chief Jim Sawkins is taking full responsibility for making the call to leave the scene of a fire when it was thought to be out, only to have it reignite in the hours that followed and go on to burn down the house.

Almost nothing is left of a home on Arctic Road from a fire last weekend. The house burned down after Inuvik firefighters had left the scene, thinking the initial fire was out.
Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

The department responded to a fire at a home on Arctic St. at approximately 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21. Twenty-four firefighters attended the scene, where the interior structure of the house had been burning.

“We put the fire out and went through the building a minimum of two times with both our thermal-imaging cameras that detect hot spots in the building – all areas were checked – and we cleared the building with our gas detector as well, which is our standard protocol,” said Sawkins.

However, the department was called out again to the scene the next morning, as the fire had reignited. The house was “pretty much destroyed,” said Sawkins.

The initial fire was not suspicious, he added. At time of press, Sawkins was still investigating to see if his hypothesis on how it started was correct. The cause of the second fire was as of yet undetermined.

“I’ll tell you the truth, it’s frustrating and it was frustrating to our firefighters,” he said. “You’ve got to keep in mind that they train very hard to do their job, to serve the community and they are probably the best group of professionals I’ve been associated with in my career.”

Sawkins said he’s been fighting fires for 37 years.

“I would not have left that scene if there was any suspicion whatsoever that there would be a reignite,” he said.

To that end, as of press time he was still trying to ascertain how the fire reignited.

“I just want to put a shout-out to the fire team that they worked tirelessly and professionally for a long period of time in sub-zero temperatures,” said Sawkins.

“The training kicked in and they were an exceptional crew to work with. I think that needs to be highlighted. There’s some garbage going around on the internet right now that’s really unfair to them. The reality is the decision to shut down the scene was the fire chief’s and fire chief’s only. That should not reflect on the quality of work and professionalism of my staff.”

No one was hurt during the fires.