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No more fire services for properties on Ingraham Trail, Yellowknife council votes

The City of Yellowknife will no longer be sending the fire department to fight fires on the Ingraham Trail, starting April 1. 

Council voted 5 to 4 to end fire services to property owners on the Ingraham Trail beginning April 1

Yellowknife city council has voted not to respond to fire calls on the Ingraham Trail, outside of city limits, unless there is a risk that the fire will start a wildfire. (Katherine Barton/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife will no longer be sending the fire department to fight fires on the Ingraham Trail, starting April 1. 

At a city council meeting Monday night, council voted five to four to adopt a new "level of service" plan that would cut fire fighting services for those who live on the trail, outside of city limits, except in cases that pose a wildfire threat. 

Councillors Shauna Morgan, Julian Morse, Cynthia Mufandaedza and Rommel Silverio voted against the change. 

When council first looked at the new plan at a meeting last month, acting fire Chief Craig MacLean estimated the fire department handles about one fire per year along the trail. 

I feel that historically you've created an accountability for yourself. Now you're trying to get out of it.- Les Harrison, property owner

Yellowknife's senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett told councillors Monday that halting fire services to residents on the Ingraham Trail won't necessarily save the city money. She says it has more to do with the need for city staff and equipment — paid for by city-dwelling taxpayers — to fight fires in town. 

Under the new "level of service," the fire department would continue to tackle fires in Dettah. It would also continue to handle ambulance and rescue calls outside of city limits. 

The acting fire chief previously said that the fire department responds to roughly one fire a year on the Ingraham Trail. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Changing the 'status quo'

In a presentation to council Monday, Ingraham Trail property owner Les Harrison told councillors that he didn't necessarily feel like it was the city's responsibility to provide fire services, but said it has created that expectation by providing those services for more than two decades.

"Rightly or wrongly whether you did this in error or not, the reality is you've been — for the last 20, 30, 40 years — providing fire suppression services to the trail," Harrison said. 

About 100 people live on properties with road access on the Ingraham Trail.

"I feel that historically you've created an accountability for yourself. Now you're trying to get out of it. I get it, I get why. I'm not criticizing you for doing that, but you can't get out of it that easy from my point of view, not without another service being in place."

At some point something's gotta give.- Coun. Niels Konge

Coun. Niels Konge disagrees. He's said multiple times that he believes services on the trail are not the city's problem.

"The status quo from 20 years ago, there was probably 30 per cent less cabins on the trail. We've seen the level of service for the ambulances in town … we've seen that increasing and increasing and increasing. At some point something's gotta give," Konge said.

"I was elected by the people who vote in Yellowknife. Not by the people who live on the trail. What they want is not really a priority for me." 

Before the final vote, Coun. Robin Williams put forth an amendment to have the April 1 deadline for fire services on the trail pushed to Sept. 1 to give trail residents more time to come up with an alternative solution.

That amendment was voted down seven to two.

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