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Fire destroys uptown triplex
At least six people homeless after flames engulf Diamond Park complex

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A distraught house sitter could only look on helplessly as she watched a fire gut her sister's home late Monday morning.

 NNSL photograph

Caitlin Yakabuski watches as fire destroys her sister's townhouse along with two other units in a devastating fire late Monday morning. No one was hurt but it was believed a cherished family dog died in the blaze. No cause has been determined. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

A tearful Caitlin Yakabuski watched as fire quickly consumed the Ward Crescent rental property where she had been house sitting for her sister Anne Mackenzie. She had rushed to the scene after receiving a phone call at work that the home was on fire.

The rapidly moving blaze destroyed an entire triplex in the Diamond Park townhouse complex, right across the street from Mark's clothing store. The fire spread in high winds, badly damaging a unit next door. It was not believed anyone was in the unit where it appeared the fire started, but a two-year-old dog named Teddy - a beloved family pet - was believed to have been in the home and was still missing as of press time. The dog belongs to Mackenzie, who is vacationing in Mexico, according to family members. It is not believed any of the tenants were home when the fire broke out.

Caitlin's father Michael Yakabuski was also on scene and shared some details after trying to console his daughter.

He said he learned of the fire when a family member called him to say she saw a fire near Walmart that looked like it was close to Mackenzie's place.

"I drove right over. It's pretty rough for everybody," he said. "We don't know if the dog got out. Caitlin and her friends were doing a search around the house in case Teddy was able to get out a window. We just don't know. The main thing is that everybody is safe."

Mackenzie's mother, Grace, was also at the scene. She was among more than 100 people who gathered across the street and watched as firefighters scrambled to bring the fire under control.

"I'm worried about the dog," she said. "Stuff can be replaced. But the little dog - really cute dog - I'm hoping that he is somewhere. It's surreal. It's terrible."

Neighbours behind the townhouse could be seen watering down their properties while the fire continued to burn. It appeared burning debris had started a small ground fire behind the burning building but a bucket nearby suggested someone had doused it.

Yellowknife resident Tony Whitford was having coffee in Tim Horton's nearby when he noticed the smoke.

"We saw the thick, black smoke and we came over," he said. "There was a gentleman who was out there with a garden hose spraying the fire but he couldn't beat it. He came away from it when flames started to come out of the building."

Scott Thomson lives a few doors down from the fire. He was not home when the fire broke out but said his wife and child were.

"By the time I got here it was too late," he said. "This place was up and gone. This is a lot too close to home."

Fire crews were called back to the scene Monday evening after smoke was seen, possibly from a hot spot. Crews again doused the home.

Caitlin and her boyfriend Brad Olson also returned to the home Monday evening.

"We have an idea how the fire may have started but we don't want to comment at this time," said Caitlin. "We're just holding out hope for Teddy. It's very sad."

According to a news release from the city, an emergency call came in about the fire at about 11:20 a.m. The request for a full group alert was initiated as additional firefighters and equipment were required to fight the fire.

The fire department responded with 18 personnel and equipment including the pumper/aerial truck.

Municipal Enforcement officers as well as RCMP were also on scene.

The cause of the fire is undetermined and the dollar amount of damages has yet to be determined, stated the city.

It was unclear as of press time whether the fire was being treated as suspicious.

A Go Fund Me campaign had already begun to help the victims of the fire. Almost $2,000 had been raised by late Monday afternoon.

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