Hay River highrise residents displaced until Wednesday, possibly longer, says fire marshal

After a fire on Friday, about 150 people who live at the highrise in Hay River, N.W.T., won't be allowed back into their apartments for days, the assistant fire marshal said on Saturday.

Resident Lynn McNeely says she has 'no idea' where her family will stay

Lynn McNeely had to leave the Hay River highrise Friday after a fire in the 17-storey building. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

After a fire on Friday, residents of the Hay River highrise will not be allowed back into their homes before Wednesday, and it may be even longer than that, according to the assistant fire marshal.

Apartment residents gathered at the town's rec centre for a briefing with a panel of emergency and town of Hay River officials at noon Saturday.

Smoke and flames were seen billowing from a unit at Mackenzie Place, known to locals in Hay River, N.W.T., as "the highrise," on Friday afternoon around 2 p.m. The fire was put out by Friday evening, according to Mayor Kandis Jameson

The fire was on the 11th floor of the 17-storey building owned by Satdeo Inc. None of the roughly 150 people who live in the building were allowed back in Friday night.

"This building is going to remain closed to the public and occupants until we can assess the potential dangers," said Travis Wright, South Slave region's assistant fire marshal.

"We are currently working on a plan to assess the extent of damage and dangers present."

People listen to the assistant fire marshal's update at the Hay Rive rec centre Saturday at noon. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Wright said the town will work with its health and electrical branch for this process. Power had been cut to units on and around the 11th floor, added Wright.

"I cannot report an accurate timeline for this process," said Wright. "What I can report is it will not be before Wednesday, and it could be beyond this point."

One angry tenant was heard from the crowd, talking over Wright's update.

Wright said there are no updates on the fire investigation Saturday. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

"Cut the f---ing power, cut the water, let us in grab our shit," he shouted. "It's my life!" 

Wright said the fire investigation is still in its preliminary stages and he has "nothing to report at this time."

The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority will be taking the lead on providing meals, housing and handling donations for the displaced tenants.

Residents can call or text a 24-hour line 867-875-8256 if they have any specific needs, like questions about transportation, housing or medical needs, said the authority's CEO Erin Griffiths.

Resident has 'no idea' where family will stay

People spent the first night either with friends or families, finding their own accommodation, or were staying at the Dene Wellness Centre on the K'atl'odeeche First Nation reserve.

Lynn McNeely, who lives on the 10th floor with her two sons, said her family stayed overnight at the wellness centre. She said about half a dozen tenants were also there.

About 150 people live in the 17-storey building, which is owned by Satdeo Inc. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

McNeely said she doesn't know where she'd stay if her family is displaced for several days.

"We have no idea," she said.

She said she woke up to a fire alarm Friday, and was only able to take her cat and some rings her late mother had left to her. She's worried for her son's musical instruments and electronics that were left behind. 

"It doesn't look good," said McNeely. "A lot of smoke damage, from what police told us last night."

With files from Kirsten Murphy


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