Man fights his own fire, says Yellowknife emergency services refused his call

Norman Betsina's daughter was riding the snow machine when it caught fire Tuesday.

Fire chief says four out of five-person crew was responding to medical calls when Betsina's call came in

Norman Betsina said he and two others took a fire extinguisher and snow to this snow machine after it caught fire on Yellowknife Bay Tuesday. (Randi Beers/CBC)

A man in Ndilo, N.W.T. is demanding answers after he says the Yellowknife Fire Department refused to respond to an emergency call about his snow machine that caught on fire while his daughter was riding it Tuesday afternoon.

Norman Betsina was downtown at around 12:30 p.m. when he was alerted to the emergency.

"I immediately made sure that everybody was OK and called the fire department," said Betsina.

But emergency crews, according to Betsina, refused to respond to the call because the snow machine, which was a couple hundred feet from shore, was too far out on Great Slave Lake.

So Betsina and two friends took a fire extinguisher to the flaming machine themselves, and used shovels to pile snow on hot spots.

This snow machine was still flaming when CBC visited the site an hour after Norman Betsina says he called the Yellowknife Fire Department. (Randi Beers/CBC)

"What bothers me is they never came down, they never responded, they never sent anybody," he said.

"No RCMP, no bylaw, nothing … We put our lives on the line."

Betsina is especially concerned with the fact that he and his friends fought the fire without any personal protective equipment or training, and they didn't know whether the snow machine's gas tank was full.

What if it was somebody else? Is it because we are in Ndilo ?- Norman  Betsina

Despite their efforts, the machine was flaming again when CBC visited the site at around 2 p.m.

Now, Betsina is down one snow machine and left with a mountain of questions for the City of Yellowknife and its fire department.

"What if it was somebody else? Is it because we are in Ndilo?" he asked.

"They take our money and use it for themselves for municipal purposes so … maybe we should take our money back. Start our own fire department."

Betsina said he was also planning to call Yellowknives First Nation Chief Ernest Betsina to let him know of the issue.

Only one firefighter in station when call came in

The City of Yellowknife provides emergency services to the Yellowknives Dene First Nations community of Ndilo, which is located within Yellowknife's municipal boundaries.

In a news release sent out Wednesday afternoon, Yellowknife Fire Chief John Fredericks said four out of the Yellowknife Fire Department's five-person crew were responding to medical calls when Betsina's call came in.

"As there was no reported danger of entrapment or injuries and the snowmobile was on the lake with no indicated exposure to other property, a decision was made not to respond," stated Fredericks.


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