Thunder Bay

House fire in Muskrat Dam First Nation sends 2 to hospital

An early morning house fire in Muskrat Dam First Nation, a remote community located about 370 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, sent two people to a Winnipeg hospital for treatment on Thursday.

Officials say latest fire incident sheds light on housing and fire safety issues in remote communities

A volunteer fire department in muskrat Dam extinguished a fire at a two-storey home on Thursday. According to community officials, the home was destroyed but the crews were able to save adjacent homes. (Alvin Fiddler (Facebook))

An early morning house fire in Muskrat Dam First Nation, a remote community located about 370 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout Ont., sent two people to a Winnipeg Man., hospital for treatment on Thursday.

Community officials said a couple were the lone occupants of the two-storey house when the fire started. The husband and wife were able to escape the fire on their own, and then notified a neighbour about the emergency.

"The home was in close proximity to other homes which were part of a CMHC [Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] complex with at least two of the other homes sustaining some smoke damage," reads a media release from community officials.

The community's volunteer fire department responded and extinguished the fire. The home was destroyed but the crews were able to save adjacent homes.

The occupants of the house were transported to a Winnipeg hospital, where they are being treated for first-and second-degree burns to their hands, arms, chests and backs.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

Alvin Fiddler, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) chief, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that the fire occurred at his sister's house. He said the tragedy immediately mobilized the community, and his family members received "exemplary care" as they waited to be airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. 

"The patients are currently stable and, after a slight delay due to weather, were evacuated via air transport to Winnipeg, the closest access the community has to a burn unit. We are also communicating with family both on-and off-reserve and have arranged to have mental health workers support family and other community members affected by the fire," said Roy Fiddler, who is currently the pandemic lead coordinator in the community and the spokesperson for the family.

Community officials said a combination of bad weather and a community-wide power outage delayed the transportation of the victims to the hospital. Internet communications were also down at the local Nursing Station making it difficult for doctors to assess the patients via telemedicine.

Muskrat Dam First Nation has an on-reserve population of about 200, and is located 370 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout Ont. (Google Maps)

"The incident again brings to light the unique challenges faced by especially remote First Nation communities in terms of fire, home safety, emergency response capability and access to medical help," reads the release provided by community officials on Friday.

Grand Chief Fiddler said the incident underscores the need to stay vigilant, and the value of the Amber's Fire Safety Campaign, which promotes fire safety and awareness in all NAN First Nations.

Muskrat Dam First Nation is part of the Independent First Nation Alliance, a Tribal Council which experienced a fire in one of its communities last year that resulted in the death of a family of five people.

The community has a on-reserve population of about 200 people, and has some fire equipment that is utilized by volunteers.