Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario First Nation declares state of emergency after fatal house fire

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), also known as Big Trout Lake First Nation, has declared a state of emergency after a fatal house fire on Thursday, May 2.

'There are too many people to watch and not enough manpower to watch them,' said Chief Donny Morris

The community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation lost four children and one woman during a fatal house fire. A long time foster parent, 47-year-old Geraldine Chapman, died along with her daughter, Shyra Shadara Taylor Bella Chapman, 6, and her three foster children — Angel Kenisha Mckay, 12, Karl Jovon Cutfeet, 9, and Hailey Ocean Jenna Chapman, 7. (KI / Submitted)

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), also known as Big Trout Lake First Nation, has declared a state of emergency after a fatal house fire on Thursday, May 2.

"This tragedy is having a devastating impact on the entire community, with continuing effects that require external support and financial assistance," Chief Donny Morris stated in a written release.

"We are feeling the crushing weight of this tragedy in our community and with our people."

Morris said many youth and family members are suffering from mental health trauma in the wake of the loss, with some experiencing suicidal ideation.

"There are too many people to watch and not enough manpower to watch them," he said.

The community, located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, has only one in-clinic crisis response team, according to the release, and it lacks staff to handle those that need in-home attention around the clock.

Nishnawbe Ask Nation has sent crisis response teams to assist and the community has received help from area tribal councils, including the Independent First Nations Alliance, the statement said, adding that federal and provincial representatives have been contacted.

The community centre in KI has also been opened to responders, supporters and family members coming to the First Nation as there is a lack of infrastructure, such as hotels and restaurants.

Meals, activities and live music is also being offered at the centre as a source of relief, the release said, and it is estimated that this support is costing the community at least $10,000 per day.