A Yellowknife woman who said she lost virtually everything she owned in a devastating yet spectacular fire Tuesday morning is otherwise extremely thankful and relieved no one was badly hurt or killed.
Samantha Janes spoke with CKLB as she looked over the still smoking rubble of the building Tuesday afternoon.
As she surveyed the destruction she said that it was sheer luck that she and her family were still alive.
More than 100 people, mostly women and children, were left homeless after flames raced through the Rockhill Apartment building on 54 Ave. behind the Coast Fraser Tower highrise about 5:00 am.
The building, a transitional home for vulnerable people run by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA NWT), housed families in 33 apartment units
Miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.
One firefighter was taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but had since been released, according to RCMP.
Several tenants who stood outside in the cold and watched their homes burn told stories of heroic individuals, including a Mountie, who went door-to-door pounding in an effort to wake them up.
Every available firefighter in the city responded including a crew from the Yellowknife Airport fire division.
RCMP and Municipal Enforcement (MED) officers and vehicles also surrounded the scene and closed off streets in the area.
An official cause has yet to be determined.
The NWT Fire Marshal’s Office and RCMP are investigating.
Janes said that she understood that the fire broke out in a unit on the first floor which she said was occupied by a woman her and two young children.
“My boyfriend woke me up and we thought it was a false alarm until I heard people running through the hallway yelling for people to get out,” Janes said. “Within minutes the building was engulfed in flames. We’ve lost everything – clothes, sentimental stuff. We’re starting from scratch.”
Janes said she and boyfriend and her young daughter had lived in the building for the past seven months.
She said she does not have content insurance and doubts very much in any of the tenants did.
Dozens of displaced residents were initially taken to the Fieldhouse while the YWCA and others scrambled to find them lodging.
Janes said they had found a place they could stay nearby, but added she was not entirely sure how long they would be able to live there.
According to a news release from the city, the emergency shelter set up at the Fieldhouse means the facility is closed to the public until further notice.
City officials say they are working with the GNWT’s Health and Social Services Department, Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), Education, Culture and Employment, (ECE), the Housing Corporation and the Executive to provide help for the affected families.
Funds for the victims are being collected online at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/ywcanwt/.