This KFN resident lost his home to fire — twice

Glenn Buggins is still waiting for a permanent home on the reserve.

Glenn Buggins with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the P.M.'s visit to KFN in October. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Buggins)

Glenn Buggins is no stranger to fire. He spent years as a firefighter, battling blazes as far away as Ontario.

And fire has twice made him homeless.

In 2019, Buggins, a lifelong resident of K’atl’odeeche First Nation, found himself living in a log cabin in the community. But after living in a cabin with no central heating and struggling for food, he moved to Hay River’s Mackenzie Place high rise.

That suited him for about two years, until one day in March 2019 when he got several frantic calls and text messages from a friend.

“He said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m just beside the old clinic, going to the reserve.'”

“He said, ‘You’d better turn around and go back: Your apartment’s on fire.'”

That was the day of the Hay River high rise fire. The eleventh floor was burned; Although Buggins was living alone on the ninth floor, the fire led to the discovery of toxins in the building, including asbestos. Buggins and over 100 others were displaced.

After another period of struggle in his log cabin, Housing N.W.T. provided Buggins a home on Beaver Road in KFN. That home was damaged by fire on Mother’s Day of this year. On that day, 15 buildings were damaged, including several homes.

A fire broke out on the building’s 11th floor on March 15, 2019. (File photo/CKLB).

“When I get back to the reserve, I see my house is gone, my quad — everything in that house,” he says. “I lost winter coats and all that.” For the second time in four years, fire had made Buggins homeless.

More than six months later, Buggins is still waiting for a permanent home on the reserve. He isn’t the only one: Currently, Housing N.W.T. is accommodating KFN clients who lost homes to fire in Hay River. Buggins is staying in an apartment across from Ring’s Pharmacy until a replacement home is available. He’s at peace with his circumstances: “It’s pretty nice,” he says. “I can read my Bible without disturbance. I feel comfortable here. But I really would like to go back to the reserve.”

It’s the place he’s lived all his life, and where his family still lives. He’s about 40 minutes away by foot during the winter, when the river crossing is still open. The walk is even longer in the summer.

A spokesperson for Housing N.W.T. said the corporation is still planning the replacement of its damaged KFN infrastructure, including four housing units. “Housing NWT will communicate timelines with KFN leadership and tenants as the work progresses further towards completion,” said spokesperson Jeanne Yurris.

Six other units damaged by fire this summer, which are owned by KFN, have since been repaired and are inhabited again.

About the Author

Ian Down
Ian Down is a general news reporter from the West Island of Montreal. After studying journalism and computer science at Concordia University, he came to Yellowknife in 2021, joining the CKLB team in September 2022. When not behind his desk, you can find him at a local Yellowknife poetry reading, or annoying his roommates by playing his clarinet at odd hours. Feel free to reach out with any tips or story ideas at, or follow him on Twitter at @IanDown1996.