Update #1: Peawanuck Community Mourns Losses from Devastating House Fire

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Ongoing Investigation into Tragic Incident that Claimed Two Lives

Peawanuck First Nation – NEWS – The northern community of Peawanuck is grappling with the aftermath of a tragic house fire that unfolded Thursday evening. Peawanuck First Nation faces a somber reality as authorities investigate a fatal house fire with two confirmed deaths and three hospitalized.

The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service’s North East Crime Unit, along with the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall, the Chief Coroner of Ontario, the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, and the OPP, are investigating the fatal incident.

Authorities first responded to the emergency late Thursday, February 1, 2024, following reports of a significant house fire within the community.

The blaze has regrettably resulted in two fatalities, with three additional individuals currently receiving medical care for injuries incurred during the event.

The specifics of their conditions remain undisclosed at this point.

As the cause of the fire is still under investigation, details are limited. The community and the involved agencies are working closely to understand the sequence of events that led to this catastrophe.

No additional information has been released as the investigation is active and ongoing. The focus remains on providing support to the affected families and the Peawanuck community during this challenging time.

Peawanuck Awaits Fire Truck

The community has had a fire truck donated to them, but the government hasn’t yet provided any assistance toward transporting it to the reserve.

Federal MP Charlie Angus states, “The federal government refused to invest in a fire hall even after last year’s death of a 10-year-old girl. This community has suffered enough grief. There must be an inquiry into the underfunding of fire services in Treaty 9.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Seeks Fairness as NAN Struggles

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and the Executive Council are mourning the tragic loss of two community members following another fatal house fire in the remote Cree community of Weenusk First Nation (Peawanuck) on Thursday night:

“Our thoughts have been with the entire Peawanuck community since we heard about this tragedy. We had prayed for confirmation that everyone had escaped safely and are saddened to learn that two people are believed to have lost their lives.

We do not have full details, but from what we understand there were five people in the residence at the time. Three managed to escape and are being treated for their injuries.

Mental health and other support workers have been mobilized and we are doing everything possible to assist. Miigwetch to the first responders and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority for providing care for the survivors and much needed supports to the family and community.

This tragedy highlights the ever-present danger of fire, especially in remote First Nations, which are at unnecessary risk due to the chronic lack of fire-firefighting, fire prevention, and emergency services. We are very concerned to hear learn that federal funding was approved in 2022 for a new fire truck, but it is still not operational in the community.

We have lost far too many members to house fires and other tragedies that may have been preventable had the proper resources been available. Our leaders are frustrated that these tragedies continue to happen despite our best efforts to secure the resources they so desperately need.

We will honour the memory of those we have lost with a renewed and sustained effort to improve safety in our communities.”

The fire, which broke out late Thursday, remains under investigation by the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service Northeast Crime Unit. The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office is assisting.

The tragedy comes nearly one year to the day after a house fire that claimed the life of a 10-year-girl from the same community.

First Nation children under 10 have a fire-related mortality rate 86 times greater than non-First Nation children (report by Ontario Chief Coroner, 2021), and First Nation people living on-reserve are five times more likely to die in a fire (report by National Indigenous Fire Safety Council).

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