TIMMINS – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, with the support of Chiefs-in-Assembly, launched Amber’s Fire Safety Campaign today to increase fire safety and help prevent tragic house fires that continue to claim lives in NAN First Nations.
“I am pleased to launch Amber’s Fire Safety Campaign to help end the countless tragedies that have devastated our communities and claimed far too many lives,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Our first step is to provide every home in NAN territory a smoke detector within one year. We will work with Tribal Councils, various levels of government, municipal fire departments and other agencies to coordinate efforts to improve fire safety and fire-fighting services in all of our communities so that no more lives are lost.”
Amber’s Fire Safety Campaign was endorsed by Chiefs-in-Assembly during the NAN Spring Chiefs Assembly held in Timmins this week. It is named in memory Amber Strang, an infant just five months old and the youngest victim of the March 29, 2016 house fire in Pikangikum First Nation that claimed nine lives, including three generations of Amber’s family.
Long-term goals of the campaign include:
providing residential fire extinguishers to homes in all NAN First Nations;
increasing fire safety awareness and education, including support for certification in wood burning systems and fire prevention services; and
a comprehensive plan for fire protection including fire-fighting equipment, services and infrastructure including water distribution systems and fire hydrants.
“Our community has suffered tremendously from fatal house fires and every loss is remembered as if it was today. A home is a basic human right afforded to all people in a first world country – it is one of the three pillars of the pyramid of needs. Our people should not be at risk of harm in their own homes,” said Mishkeegogamang First Nation Chief Connie Gray-McKay.
Fatal house fires are all-too common in NAN First Nations and the chronic lack of firefighting services and substandard housing is a deadly combination. Mishkeegogamang First Nation has lost 30 members to house fires in the past 35 years.
House fires are especially devastating in remote communities where overcrowding is the norm and entire families are left homeless every time a home is lost.
A 2008 fire in Kashechewan First Nation left a family of 11 homeless after destroying the home of the late NAN Elder George Wesley, the father of Ricardo Wesley, who died in a 2006 fire with Jamie Goodwin. An inquest into their death, the Kashechewan Inquest, garnered national attention on the inadequacies of community safety and firefighting resources in remote First Nations.
A 2007 study by Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation Fire Prevention in Aboriginal Communities found that people living in First Nations are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people in the rest of Canada.