North

N.W.T. fire marshal says delay hindered ability to determine cause of Inuvik house fire

Why a house fire in Inuvik started - and then reignited after being decided out - cannot be determined, says N.W.T. fire marshal.

Chucker Dewar, N.W.T. fire marshal, says damage and delay mean he can't say what caused fire, why it reignited

This house in Inuvik burned to the ground, just hours after the fire department had left the scene. The N.W.T. fire marshal says the cause of the fire, and why it reignited, cannot be determined. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The Northwest Territories Fire Marshal says he can't say what caused the fire that destroyed a home in Inuvik.

Chucker Dewar said the delay in transferring the investigation over to his office had an impact on his investigation, as did the extent of damage to the house.

Chucker Dewar, N.W.T. fire marshal, says delay and damage prevent him from concluding the cause of the fire. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

"The scene had been left unattended," Dewar said. "So we really did lose continuity of the scene."

Dewar said the fire started in a wall, and appeared to be electrical in nature, "but we can't confirm that the electrical started the fire or what started the fire." Dewar said there is no evidence of criminal intent.

It was shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 23 when the fire department responded to an emergency call and battled a house fire on Arctic Road.

When the crew ended its operations and left the scene just after midnight the house appeared to be intact and repairable. But just before 6 a.m. firefighters were called back to the scene after the blaze reignited.

Dewar said there wasn't enough physical evidence remaining to say why the fire reignited.

Jim Sawkins, Inuvik fire chief, is on leave. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The day after the fire, one firefighter resigned. Several Inuvik firefighters have filed complaints with the town of Inuvik over concerns about Inuvik Fire Chief Jim Sawkins' leadership, including some filed before the Oct. 23 house fire.

Sawkins originally began the investigation, but it was transferred to the territorial fire marshal's office and an investigator arrived in Inuvik the week of Nov. 6, two weeks after the fire.

Grant Hood, Inuvik's Senior Administrative Officer confirms that Sawkins is on leave until January. He went on medical leave in November, but Hood said Sawkins' leave was no longer classified as medical.

Clarifications

  • Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story suggested all firefighter complaints against Fire Chief Jim Sawkins were filed after the house fire in question. This story has been edited to clarify some of those complaints were, in fact, filed earlier.
    Dec 19, 2017 3:29 PM CT

now