The City of Yellowknife has defended its fire department’s decision not to respond to a snowmobile fire on the frozen lake outside Ndilo.

Norman Betsina called the fire division early on Tuesday afternoon to tell them his snowmobile had caught fire while being used by his daughter.

But, according to Betsina, the fire division refused to attend the scene as it was too far out onto the lake, on the north side of Latham Island.

Betsina and friends spent their afternoon trying to put out the fire themselves. “What bothers me is they never came down, they never responded, they never sent anybody,” he told the CBC.

On Wednesday, the City of Yellowknife addressed Betsina’s complaint. In a statement, the City suggested its fire department had too few staff available to make the trip.

“At the time of the call, four Yellowknife fire division personnel were responding to two medical calls. There was one personnel, of the five person crew, remaining at the fire station,” the statement read.

“As there was no reported danger of entrapment or injuries and the snowmobile was on the lake with no indicated exposure to other property a decision was made not to respond.

“Due to the time associated with the call for additional personnel (paid on-call firefighters) to respond to the fire station, retrieve turnout gear, load into a vehicle and travel to the location, it was decided that the outcome would remain the same and that there was no danger to residents or additional property.”

Betsina says nobody was injured in the fire.

Yellowknife’s fire division has long been portrayed by its own members as understaffed, with crews in danger of burnout.

A report in 2016 called for eight additional firefighters to be employed; four of those eight will arrive later this year.