A file photo of the Town of Inuvik's fire hall. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The Town of Inuvik says a fire at an abandoned housing complex on Kugmallit Road was bad enough that the structure had to be demolished.
In a news release late on Sunday, Cynthia Hammond – Inuvik’s director of protective services and fire chief – said the fire on Saturday evening had sent one bystander to hospital.
The individual was “downwind from heavy smoke at the beginning of the fire,” Hammond stated. They were later released.
RCMP evacuated local residents from neighbouring buildings, Hammond said. No first responders were injured and nobody was reported to be in the complex at the time.
Nineteen firefighters and five trucks were needed to contain the fire.
The Town’s news release stated that after the fire had been put out, a preliminary investigation showed “the structural integrity of the building was compromised and there was a significant potential for collapse” following fire and water damage.
“For the building to remain standing in that condition, it would have created a life safety hazard for any personnel working inside the building. Additionally, there was potential for an uncontrolled collapse to impact adjacent infrastructure including gas distribution and utilidor systems,” the Town said.
As a result, a controlled demolition began at 11:30pm on Saturday and was completed just after midnight.
The Town said it would work with contractors to safely remove the remaining debris.
An investigation into how the fire started is ongoing, involving both Inuvik’s fire department and RCMP.
The building had been unoccupied since at least 2012.
In 2017, the CBC reported nine fires at the row houses on Kugmallit Road and Inuit Road had been documented in the preceding five years.
Inuvik’s director of protective services at the time, Jim Sawkins, said all were believed to have been arson.
The CBC reported the building in question was owned by a company connected to Talal Khatib, described by the broadcaster as an Inuvik resident who had faced charges related to drug trafficking and bootlegging.
In 2017, the Town of Inuvik said more than $750,000 in back taxes was owed on the properties. The buildings contained lead paint and asbestos, making their acquisition and remediation by any new owner a costly proposition.