Community rallies to support family displaced by deadly Fort Providence fire

In the aftermath of a deadly fire, community members in Fort Providence, N.W.T. and beyond have rallied behind a family who lost a child and were displaced from their home.

Fundraiser exceeds goal, dog mushers donate entire prize winnings

Smoke rises from a house fire in Fort Providence, N.W.T. on Dec. 28. The community has rallied behind a family who lost a daughter in the fire. (Chantel Bonnetrouge/GoFundMe)

In the aftermath of a deadly house fire, community members in Fort Providence, N.W.T., and beyond have rallied behind a family who lost a daughter and were displaced from their home.

Following the fire on Monday afternoon, a fundraiser launched by a relative had raised more than $12,500 by Wednesday morning, and mushers who were racing in the community this past weekend donated the "whole purse" of dog mushing prizes to the family, said Mayor Danny Beaulieu.

The fire erupted around 1:30 p.m., as the community was taking part in the annual Christmas Dog races, Beaulieu said. 

"As soon as I came across the finish line I could see big, black smoke. Someone came to me then and said there was a house fire," Beaulieu said. 

Minutes later, they learned a child was trapped in the fire and ended the events early. 

"A young lady from Yellowknife in the 10-dog class was in the back end of the race," Beaulieu said. "When she came up to get her cheque, she said she wanted to donate her winnings to the family so everybody followed suit."

Officials investigating cause of fire

Beaulieu said the community's volunteer firefighters attended to the fire quickly, but the structure was engulfed in flames when emergency responders arrived.

"They were there very quickly but it went up in flames pretty quick. Nobody could get inside, because the flames in the house spread just in minutes."

They battled the fire twice — once on Monday afternoon and again at 3 a.m. Tuesday when the structure reignited. 

"Because of the tragic thing that happened, the RCMP are investigating. The fire marshal is in town," Beaulieu said.

In a news release Wednesday, police said they were able to enter the residence and locate the deceased. Police say that until Wednesday it was not safe to enter the home. RCMP are now helping the N.W.T. Coroner Service conduct its investigation.

First Nation houses displaced family

The Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation immediately housed the family and purchased some food for them. 

"They lost everything there … all their furniture, their clothes … but the community is coming together and helping them out," Beaulieu said. 

He said the community is also going through the death of an elderly community member, and said people are doing the best they can to support the family displaced by the fire. 

"I just want to say thank you to the dog mushers for donating a lot of money back to the families. Thank you guys, I'll see you in the next race." 

'Our community comes together'

Linda Croft, the community's fire dispatcher, said that the community has been staying close by the family and that trauma counselors are being brought in. 

Croft said people from Fort Simpson, Hay River and Yellowknife have offered support and now the family's basic needs are being met. Once a home becomes available, the family will likely need larger items like furniture.

Relatives organizing the relief efforts plan to update the Facebook and fundraiser pages with that information.

"People are just reaching out from everywhere," said Croft.

"There is such a huge outpouring of love right now. Loss of life, especially that of a child is always difficult. The community is focusing on the family that made it out and making sure their needs are met," she said. 

"Our community comes together."