All First Nations need 911 service, co-ordinated firefighting protection: inquest

A judge examining the deaths of three children and a grandfather on remote northern Manitoba reserves says all First Nations deserve 911 service.

WINNIPEG — A judge examining the deaths of three children and a grandfather on remote northern Manitoba reserves says all First Nations deserve 911 service.

Judge Tracey Lord is recommending co-ordinated firefighting training for First Nations communities and greater priority given to fire safety inspections.

In her final report released today, she says 911 service should also be established in all First Nation communities.

But Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson says that won’t help if there is no one properly trained to answer the call.

The house fire in St. Theresa Point in January 2011 killed two-month-old Errabella Harper.

A second fire about two months later in God’s Lake Narrows killed Demus James and his two grandchildren.

The inquest into their deaths found the reserves were woefully unprepared to handle the fires as neighbours tried to douse the flames with buckets, wet towels and a low-pressure hose.

The blaze in St. Theresa Point happened when the community’s fire truck was broken, in a garage, with no fire hoses. No one knew where the keys were.

Statistics show that residents of Manitoba First Nations are far more likely to die in house fires than people living off reserve, who are more likely to escape with injuries. Although fires on reserves make up less than five per cent of all fires in Manitoba, they account for up to half the fatalities.