Fort Good Hope loses Northern store in blaze

Residents of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., are figuring out what to do since the local Northern store burned to the ground Monday, in the community's third major fire in a week.

3rd fire to strike community in less than a week

Residents of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., are figuring out what to do since the local Northern store burned to the ground Monday, in the community's third major fire in a week.

Firefighters in the hamlet of 557 spent more than seven hours Monday dealing with blaze which began around 3 p.m. MT.

The Northern store was not only a grocery and general store, but it was also a public gathering place and it housed the local bank and post office.

With all that gone 10 days before Christmas, band officials started a meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday to answer residents' questions and concerns.

"That impacts most of our people, so what we might be able to do to meet their current demands for groceries, that sort of thing," Fort Good Hope Chief Arthur Tobac said Tuesday.

He added that officials could "at least tell them what we do have and what we do need, we can make arrangements for that at this meeting."

Tobac said many are especially worried about any mail and Christmas packages that may have been destroyed in the fire. He has invited representatives from the Northern store to help answer questions at the meeting.

Contained blaze

Eyewitnesses told CBC News they saw flames engulfing the store and smoke rising more than 45 metres in the air.

Residents living nearby were told to leave their homes, as fire officials were worried about ammunition and propane that were kept in the store.

Firefighters worked until 10:20 p.m. to keep the flames away from nearby warehouses and staff quarters, while allowing the fire to burn, former fire chief Doug Louison told CBC News.

"The guys were pretty tired and the fire was contained, it was smouldering. They gave the guys a break, but there was security on it all night to make sure that nobody went around it or that it didn't flare up and spread," Louison said Tuesday morning.

"The ammunition, they managed to get some of it out — most of it — but yes, there was explosions here and there."

The latest fire came after two blazes on Thursday burned down two separate buildings in Fort Good Hope, including the hamlet's former band office.

Fire officials suspect the Northern store experienced an electrical fire that started in the ceiling.

Louison said the store had finished hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations only a month or two ago.

"We still have the Co-Op store, which is still up and running, but it just means they're going to be a lot busier," he said.

"They're going to have to get more selection, I guess. The Northern Store had a little more variety."