The executive director of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada says that fire prevention needs to be the focus in order to stop tragedies like the fatal blaze on a Saskatchewan First Nation that killed two toddlers this week.
Blaine Wiggins said the spotlight has been on putting out fires rather than preventing blazes on reserves before they happens.
On Tuesday, a two-year-old boy and one-year-old girl died in a house fire on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, west of Meadow Lake, Sask. Since the fire, the First Nation and the village of Loon Lake have been going back-and-forth over what the agreement was between the communities for fire service.
"Every time we hear of another fatality it doesn't make it any easier," Wiggins told Blue Sky host Garth Materie.
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- Fire Chief Larry Heon rejects criticism over Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation fatal fire
- 2 toddlers killed in house fire on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation
Wiggins said Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has done a good job over the past 30 to 40 years when it comes to fire suppression, but reserves have fallen behind in other areas when it comes to fire service.
"That is only really a small segment of what we call the fire service as a whole," he said.
"There are so many elements of the fire service that we've got to catch up on."
From coast to coast, fire prevention programs, building codes, data collection and research must be done to catch up, he said.
"First and foremost, we need a national building and fire code on reserves," he said. "Most people aren't aware that that doesn't exist."
As well as creating a national building code, he said more money would help.
"Funding is a challenge and we certainly agree with both regional chiefs and national chiefs, but what we need to do is better define what it is we need, so we can make a better case for how to utilize those resources."
"I think one of the things that would be more of a tragedy is if we were able to increase the funding but we weren't putting it in the right places and we didn't see a major reduction in fatalities or loss of property."
Wiggins said what needs to be done right now is to start at the grassroots level with basic home fire prevention campaigns.
"We just start in the home and then go from there, because in reality, that's where our fatalities are happening — in the homes," he said.
"We have to see changes"