Hamilton

5 house fires in 9 days leave Six Nations firefighters exhausted and scrambling

An “unprecedented” number of house fires has left two families displaced and is stretching the Six Nations of the Grand River community fire services to its limit. 

The fire department had been left with a significantly reduced number of firefighters

One of five house set on fire over the past 9 days in the Six Nations community. (Colin Cote-Paulette/CBC)

An "unprecedented" number of house fires has left two families displaced and is stretching the Six Nations of the Grand River community fire services to its limit. 

Five homes have been on fire over the past nine days in the First Nations reserve, the Six Nations Fire and Emergency Service Department said.

The families have lost their homes and a significant number of personal belongings, the department said. 

A number of the fires were being investigated as suspicious, but so far no correlation could be established between the fires, Fire Chief Matthew Miller told media Wednesday. 

"The house fires which have occurred in such a short period of time is an unprecedented situation," Miller said.  

The increased demand on the service had left firefighters "in a constant state of exhaustion with no adequate time to recover physically and mentally," he said.

The fire department had been left with a significantly reduced number of firefighters and capacity to attend emergencies, the fire chief said. 

"It's really difficult as a fire chief to come out and admit we can't provide the service we are relied upon for."

Under normal conditions, the brigade would have 10 to 20 First Nations firefighters available to respond, but it was now reduced to approximately four, he said. 

A burnt out shell of a house along Cayuga Road. (Colin Cote-Paulette/CBC)

A number of the out-of-town brigades were wary to assist due to a six-week protest outside the Six Nations Central Administration building, Miller said. 

"The honest truth is if the protest wasn't here we could have firefighters from the neighbouring municipalities here assisting us."

However, some mutual aid fire services were assisting the Six Nations community but response time could be up to 11 minutes longer, a spokesperson for the First Nations Emergency Control Group said in a statement. 

"As a result, public safety is at a heightened risk, and the probability of another fire is high," the group said. 

Fundraising efforts have been started to assist both of the households. 

Six Nations fire department Chief Matthew Miller says the increase in fires had left the service in a constant state of exhaustion with no adequate time to recover physically and mentally. (Colin Cote-Paulette/CBC)