North

Iqaluit's 'fire problem is with arson,' says fire chief

Over 70 per cent of Iqaluit's 2014 fires were incendiary and suspicious, according to a new report, leading the capital's fire chief to say that the city has an arson problem.

Over 70% of city's 2014 fires incendiary and suspicious, says new report

Iqaluit firefighters fight a blaze at a house in the Tundra Valley neighbourhood in February of 2014. Over 70 per cent of the city's fires last year were incendiary and of a suspicious nature, according to a report presented to city council Tuesday night. (Patrick Nagle/CBC)

Iqaluit has an arson problem, according to its fire chief.

Luc Grandmaison presented the fire department's 2014 statistical report to city council Tuesday night. In the report, revealing that over 70 per cent of the city's fires last year were considered incendiary fires of a suspicious nature.

"When we look at the 45 fires we responded to, unfortunately, more than 73 per cent are caused by arson, or basically intentional fires, or criminal fires," said Grandmaison. "That's what causes our fires in Iqaluit.

"Unfortunately, our fire problem is with arson fires." 

Though the report is for 2014, recent high-profile incidents have kept fires in Iqaluit in the spotlight in 2015.

Last month, an Iqaluit man was charged with arson after allegedly setting fire to his Arctic College dorm room, temporarily shutting down the building and forcing students in the residence to relocate. 

Last weekend, a quad­plex caught fire in the middle of the night, forcing residents from their homes and leaving one woman hospitalized with serious injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Councillor Stephen Mansell called the arson rate "atrocious".

"These people are putting property and lives in danger. It's very sad," Mansell said. "What are we doing to prosecute these people who are setting fires in our community?"

"It's terrible what's happening, and we need to get tough on these people as far as I'm concerned."

Last year's fire-­related injuries in Iqaluit were among the lowest totals since 2011. The fire department reported one civilian death in 2014, and three firefighter injuries. While the death is the first since 2012, the number of injuries was half of the 2012 total.

The fire department estimated $591,392 in was lost because of fires last year. Only 11 per cent of all fires were caused by a lit cigarette, but the total dollar loss of those added up to more than $300,000.

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