WINNIPEG – Statistics show that residents of Manitoba First Nations are far more likely to die in house fires than people living off reserve, due to outdated and overcrowded housing, poor fire prevention education and an often total inability to respond when fires break out.
Here’s a look at some fatal fires on Manitoba reserves:
October 2006: Jody Pacey Karl Tssessaze, 4, dies in house fire on the Northlands First Nation. The community did not have a fire department of its own.
March 2008: Letrel Bighetty-Castel, 5, Robert Castel-Lapensee Jr., 4, and Troi Castel-Lapensee, 3, die when fire breaks out in a trailer in Pukatawagan. Residents tried to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers.
October 2008: Gerrod Head, 7, and Ethan Flett, 6, die when fire breaks out in a shed on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. The boys could not find their way out because of smoke.
February 2009: Hope Richard, 9, dies when the house she shares with 12 other people catches fire in Sandy Bay.
May 2009: Tristan Marcus Taylor-Mousseau, 5, dies in a house fire in Sandy Bay. There were 12 people living in the house at the time.
January 2010: Edward Redhead, 11, dies in a house fire in Shamattawa. No one could find the fire chief and no one realized the boy was missing until several days later.
May 2010: Curtis Laporte, 2, dies in a house fire on the Long Plain First Nation after he seeks shelter under his baby blanket behind a couch.
January 2011: Errabella Harper, 2 1/2 months, dies in a house fire in St. Theresa Point. The community’s fire truck was broken with no fire hoses and no one knew where the keys were.
January 2011: Daphne Benjoe, 41, dies in a house fire on the Roseau River First Nation. Firefighters were left without water to battle the blaze, because the community’s fire hydrants were frozen, not having had their annual maintenance the previous year.
March 2011: Demus James, 73, and his grandchildren Throne Kirkness, 2, and Kayleigh Okemow, 3, die in a fire in God’s Lake Narrows. The community didn’t have a fire truck and tried to battle the flames with two water trucks.
March 2013: A 14-year-old boy and a three-year-old child are orphaned after a house fire kills their parents on the Wasagamack First Nation. The reserve didn’t have a fire dispatch service because of funding cuts.