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Shack fire kills one
Beachside structure fully engulfed before fire crews arrived

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 22, 2014

Residents could only stand and watch helplessly as they waited for fire crews to arrive to an evening fire Dec. 18 that destroyed a shack on the beach near Iqaluit's elders' home. One person died in the fire, Nunavut's chief coroner Padma Suramala confirmed Dec. 19.

NNSL photo/graphic

At least one shack caught fire on the Iqaluit shoreline behind the elders' home, near NorthMart, at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 18. The chief coroner confirmed that one person died in the fire. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

"Human remains will be sent to the Ottawa forensic pathologist to determine the cause of death," Suramala said. "We are still in the preliminary stage of the investigation in order to determine the proper identification. We are not in a position to release the name, the sex or the age of the person."

RCMP officers discovered the blaze.

"Members were en route to another call when they noticed the shack was in flames," said Const. Malcolm MacNeil.

"They saw the smoke, went to that area, they weren't able to enter. Fire was called, the fire was put out, and after that is when the body was discovered."

Flames were visible across town, and the structure a wooden shack was engulfed before fire crews arrived. Upon arrival, they faced temperatures reaching -26 C. There were few signs of a structure remaining the next morning.

To the firefighters' credit, the fire was contained. The fire was 25 feet away from the elders' home, behind NorthMart, and flames threatened to spread not only to more shacks, but to the elders' home as well.

Roonie Iqalukjuaq lives in a shack further down the beach.

He and a group of men who reside at the men's shelter said on the morning of Dec. 19 that between eight and 12 people live in such shacks. Iqalukjuaq said it was the biggest shack fire he had seen. None of the men knew who the victim might be.

The fire marshal's office is investigating the cause.

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