Yellowknife’s abandoned buildings worry fire marshal

Municipal enforcement officers and firefighters at work in downtown Yellowknife as a fire truck arrives
Municipal enforcement officers and firefighters at work in downtown Yellowknife as a fire truck arrives. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

NWT fire marshal Chucker Dewar called on owners of Yellowknife’s abandoned buildings to take more care after another downtown fire.

Tuesday’s fire, at the derelict former office of Diamond Cabs on 51 Street, appeared accidental and nobody was hurt, Dewar told Cabin Radio.

“We have a suspicion of unauthorized entry to the building,” he said. “There was no power and no heating to the building, and fires generally don’t start by themselves.

“It would be good to remind residents that it’s the building owner’s responsibility to make sure derelict buildings are secure. That’s a national fire code requirement.”



The building at 5117 51 Street has been unoccupied for some years. On Tuesday, it was possible to look through the building’s open doorways from one street to another.

“If I was aware the owners weren’t maintaining a derelict building and weren’t keeping it secured, I would request the owner secure the building,” said Dewar.

“[In this instance] I wasn’t aware of that, and nor was my office. If it had been brought to my attention, we would have taken measures to address it.”

The CBC separately reported the cost of Tuesday’s call-out was $1,992.80, quoting a city spokesperson. The property owner, who has not been identified, will be charged $500 according to that report.




Yellowknife resident Dane Mason, who is preparing to mount a second bid for office as a city councillor in this fall’s municipal election, used his campaign’s Facebook page to suggest policy at City Hall must change.

“City policy encourages sitting on derelict lots as they go up in potential value,” Mason wrote.

“They hinder development, become eyesores, public safety issues, and eventually, as we saw June 11, and again last night, a risk for nearby properties and first responders.”

Mason was referring to a fire in June on the corner of 53 Street and Franklin Avenue, which gutted an abandoned home first built in the 1940s.

Dewar said his office still has no “concrete evidence” to explain how that fire started, and no charges have been laid.

“It’s the same set of circumstances. We have a derelict building, we suspect unauthorized access was a problem,” he said.

However, in that instance, the building was fenced and “regularly secured by the owner” according to Dewar.

“You can only go so far, right?” He said. “If there is unauthorized entry, that’s just a circumstance that occurs.

“The fire on Franklin Avenue started on the exterior of the building. Every time I looked at it, the windows were boarded and the property was fenced.

“We don’t make people tear down their buildings. Some have historical value, some have cultural meanings.”