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Fire rips through Kitikmeot Health Centre

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Monday, August 6, 2007

CAMBRIDGE BAY - A fire at the Kitikmeot Health Centre in Cambridge Bay on Aug. 1 damaged the roof and exterior walls of the multi-million dollar facility.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Volunteer firefighters in Cambridge Bay extinguish a fire at the Kitikmeot Health Centre, believed to have started in the incinerator on Aug. 1. - photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Exterior siding was removed as were parts of the roofline, according to Dave Richardson, assistant deputy minister of operations with Health and Social Services. There was also extensive smoke and water damage to the building, he added. No one was hurt.

Staff in the building were evacuated as were people in homes and office buildings surrounding the two-storey health facility. There were no patients inside at the time.

Workers noticed fire coming from an incinerator at the back of the building at noon. The flames spread to the area around the building's chimney and to the roof. Firefighters had to tear open part of the roof to combat the flames, according to Richardson.

Drugs, valuable equipment and files were quickly moved out of the building and relocated in the community hall, where a temporary health centre has been set up.

"They immediately moved the narcotics back to the private pharmacy, so they were under lock and key," said Nancy Campbell, director of communications with Health and Social Services.

An assessment of the cause of the fire was to be conducted on Friday, Aug. 2. At press time, the source of ignition was unknown, but Richardson, whose office is in Cambridge Bay, presumed that the blaze started in the incinerator, where testing had been ongoing that day.

The DEW Line fire crew joined the volunteer fire fighters in controlling and extinguishing the blaze. The joint effort was very well organized, Richardson said. The fire was declared out at 5 p.m. Those who had been evacuated were then allowed to re-enter their buildings.

"We are optimistic that we'll be able to move back into the building while repairs go on to the damaged areas," Richardson said.

The health centre, which opened in the fall of 2005, housed X-ray facilities, a laboratory, an emergency department, an out-patient area, and the future site of an eight bed in-patient unit on the second floor, currently used for day programs and physiotherapy.