More training for Nunavik firefighters could save lives, says coroner

Quebec coroner Andrée Kronström's investigation found that none of the volunteer firefighters who responded to the scene knew how to use their oxygen masks or how to adjust the flow of water from the pump truck.

Recommendation comes in new report on deaths of two people in a 2015 house fire

Coroner Andreé Kronström prepared the report, released Dec. 14. (Sébastien Vachon)

A Quebec coroner's investigation into the deaths of two people in a June 2015 house fire found that more training for volunteer first responders could help save lives in the future.

Coroner Andrée Kronström says there were about 10 people in the Puvirnituq home at the time of the fire including six children, a baby, and several adults.

The grandmother and baby, who died of smoke inhalation, were on the second floor. 

Kronström's investigation found that none of the volunteer firefighters who responded to the scene knew how to use their oxygen masks or how to adjust the flow of water from the pump truck.

She also found that alcohol consumption was a factor in the events of that night, since the adults inside the home didn't react as quickly as they could have when the alarm went off due to heavy drinking.

"It is my opinion that the factor that could have made for a better evacuation of the people from the fire and increase their chances of survival concerns, more particularly, the firefighters' training," Kronström wrote in her report. 

"In essence, they did not know the basic rules of their trade, i.e. handling of their equipment."

More training in the works

Michel Martin is the chief of police and public security director for the Kativik regional government.

He says five of the 21 volunteer firefighters in Puvirnituq have since obtained the required first-level course.

Martin says a new training centre is scheduled to open next June.

When it does, all of the 64 volunteer firefighters in the 14 Inuit communities will obtain the proper training.

With files from Catou MacKinnon