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Fires claimed 5 lives, injured 18 in Nunavut last year

Five people died, 18 people were injured and $44 million worth of property was damaged in fires last year in Nunavut, according to the Office of the Fire Marshal's annual report.

'Why has it increased over the years? We will definitely look into it,' says acting fire marshal

Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed Peter Pitseolak school in Cape Dorset last year. (submitted)

Five people died, 18 people were injured and $44 million worth of property was damaged in fires last year in Nunavut, according to the Office of the Fire Marshal's annual report.

That's the highest number of deaths since 2012, and the highest amount of property damage since 2011.

There were a total of 141 fires in the territory last year, including major fires at Cape Dorset's Peter Pitseolak school, the Pangnirtung power plant and the Baffinland mine.

Officials say those three incidents account for most of the $44 million in reported property damage from fire last year.

Of the 141 fires, 56 were started intentionally and children caused 11 of them, including the fire at Peter Pitseolak school. 

"It's very concerning, absolutely, and we have to look into that deeper," said Jerry Anilniliak, Nunavut's acting fire marshal."Why has it increased over the years? We will definitely look into it."

Sixty-five fires were started by a match, lighter, cigarette or cigar for combined damages of just of $28 million. 

Twenty-one fires were categorized as "suspicious." 

The report shows that there were more fires in Iqaluit in 2015 than in the entire Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions combined.

"We have a lot of small fires and we report all the fires we have," said Stephane Dionne, Iqaluit's deputy fire chief. 

"Fire is like a cycle. Sometimes we have got a lot of fire."

The fire marshal's report says it is working to develop programs to assist fire departments and provide fire prevention seminars in communities "as soon as possible." 

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