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Efforts underway to improve Fort Resolution fire department, says administrator

By Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North   

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Mar. 11, 2024, Fort Resolution, N.W.T. – Attempts are being made to recruit members to Fort Resolution’s struggling fire department, according to hamlet administrator Shawn Stuckey.

“We have lost several firefighters [to resignations],” he acknowledged on March 6. “We have recruited for the last several months, at least three or four [members]. I’ve had signs out. We’re back up to six or seven firefighters. I’d like to be at eight. I think we’re getting much better and we’ll continue to improve the service. We do as much as we possibly can.”

Fort Resolution has been governed by a GNWT-appointed administration since the hamlet council was dissolved by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) last June. It was at that point that Stuckey took up the role as administrator.

Shortly before his tenure, the local volunteer fire force experienced numerous resignations.


Speaking to the legislative assembly on Feb. 8, Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon contended that the resignations left the community “totally unprotected” against the threat of a serious fire.

Having arrived after the resignations occurred, Stuckey said he could not comment on their cause, but noted that the hamlet does have some protection against fires.

“From an overall perspective, we only do level one, preventative-based,” he said. “That’s what’s done in most of the Northern communities — I’ll say the small ones.

“Then there’s the volunteer fire department that respond to put out the fire. From a hamlet perspective, we supply the water trucks and they’re loaded full every day and every night and kept in our garage so we’re ready.”

Edjericon also expressed concern about the upcoming wildfire season, which last year devastated communities across the NWT, and caused widespread evacuations, although Fort Resolution was spared.

In response to the MLA’s concerns, MACA Minister Vince McKay stated that the hamlet was developing a fire plan, and that several “Cat guards,” or fire breaks, have already been created with the hope of protecting residents from potential wildfires.

Stuckey confirmed that statement from the minister, and added that further safeguards are in the works – though he noted that “firefighting bush fires” is technically “not within the hamlet’s purview.”

“We did that around the whole community,” he said of the fire breaks. “Our intent is to continue that over the next few years. I’ve been working with an engineering firm out of British Columbia and staff to do it in the best way possible and ensure that it’s done correctly as per the engineers.”

While recruitment of volunteer firefighters is still a primary concern, Stuckey revealed that the hamlet also has plans to provide specialized training for the existing members of the brigade, most likely in May or June. The training will be led by Ontario-based Waswanay Consulting Inc., a firm that aims to “be a leading fire training company dedicated to safeguarding First Nations’ lives, culture, and heritage,” according to its website.

“I think if you have firefighters, a group that feels good about it, they’re going to be far more motivated to continue,” Stuckey said.

“We’re working to get that put [training] together,” he added, with the caveat that doing so has been difficult because of the municipality’s “dire financial straights” — part of the reason for MACA’s administration order.

Fort Resolution experienced a house fire on Jan. 9. That fire was extinguished, but it exacerbated concerns about the hamlet’s readiness.

Stuckey said the municipality plans to host a “community emergency plan workshop” on April 15 and 16 in hopes of alleviating some of that worry.

“That will be with all the community members to look at the fire season, what we can do, how we can do better within the hamlet, and to make sure we’re coordinated with the Government of the Northwest Territories and what their plans and projects are.”

While efforts are underway to strengthen Fort Resolution’s readiness, the administrator underlined the ongoing importance of prevention, and encouraged residents to make sure their homes are outfitted with working smoke detectors, and if possible, fire extinguishers.

He also emphasized the importance of calling 911 in an emergency situation, rather than the hamlet.

“911 is who coordinates this, and that’s what they do,” he said. “If [residents] are calling the hamlet or other [numbers], they’re not [calling] the ones that can get all the responders there as quick as possible.”

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