Every spring and fall, the growing community of West Dawson is cut off from neighbouring Dawson City by break-up and freeze-up of the Yukon River that separates them.

It's a situation most residents are prepared for, except in certain emergencies such as house fires.

That has some people in the community concerned.

"There's more families, families with children now," says Brent McDonald. "It didn't used to be much of a concern when I was on my own, but definitely is more now."

There is no fire hall in what is called the West Dawson and Sunnydale areas. They're not within Dawson City limits; it's Yukon government land.

"Legally speaking, they're outside our jurisdiction and they're not part of our mandatory response area," says Dawson City CEO Jeff Renaud. "However, as a community we've always felt that we have a responsibility to assist West Dawson."

Dawson City's fire chief says they've received more than 40 calls in the past five years from across the river. Since the roads out there are too narrow, firefighters use a pick-up truck but the tank doesn't hold enough water to fight a house fire.

The city has asked the territory for a bigger pick-up truck and a foamer for the water tank, which could quadruple the volume of water it sprays.

"You are allowing people to construct and live over there, and people are paying taxes," says Fire Chief Jim Regimbal. "You have to provide fire protection." 

Not everyone wants protection. Some say they live across the river by choice and accept the risks.

But McDonald isn't so sure. 

"You know, if somebody needs help and everybody gathers together and helps [it's okay]," McDonald said. "But when it comes to resources and bigger emergencies like fire, it's something that we need help with. 

But unless a self-powered garage is built on the west side of the Yukon River, any new fire truck will continue to sit in Dawson, unable to provide emergency services to West Dawson in spring and fall.