Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, January 24, 2014

First Nations Fire-Trap Solutions

No functioning volunteer firemen in Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan. Resulting in the death of two young boys. A fast-acting individual on the reserve managed, despite fire consuming the wood structure two-story house, to rescue a mother and young boy and a ten-year-old girl. And he then raged that he was left to his own devices without any assistance. He hadn't known there were two young children on the second story. And the fire soon consumed both house and children,.

Pelican Narrows has short supply of fire help
A house burns in Pelican Narrows, Sask. in an RCMP handout photo. There weren't enough volunteer firefighters available to help, and the fire truck was broken down.   Photograph by: RCMP , Handout photo
Apologists insist that the reserve was starved of funds. But funds were there, given to the band specifically for fire protection and training of volunteers. The good Samaritan who risked his life to rescue the three he managed to save, said it was his opinion that volunteers were not forthcoming because it was unpaid work. The fire engine, explained the fire chief, couldn't be started, and so...nothing was done.

And now, comes knowledgeable information from a consultant in compliance frameworks in First Nations communities, who explains the situation rather fulsomely. The answer, says John Kiedrowski, is not that additional funding be supplied for fire suppression on reserves "but more effective governance. The solution lies with the chief and council."

"They are the authority with jurisdiction and they are responsible to ensure homes are built or renovated according to the national fire code. This includes fire code inspections, effective educational programs, requiring the installation and maintenance of smoke and fire alarms in all homes, and having homes inspected, especially when a wood source appliance is installed."

Fire deaths, points out Mr. Kiedrowski, among First Nations are the highest in North America with the fire incidence rate 2.4 greater per capita than that for the rest of Canada. Fire damage per unit is 2.1 times greater, fire injury rate 2.5 times greater, death rate 10.4 times greater. These data are not unknown to band councils. There are solutions and they could save many lives if they were implemented.

High fire losses have a number of source causes; injuries and deaths due to fire on reserves result from overcrowding, dangerous behaviours resulting from substance abuse, and the simple irredeemable fact that many aboriginal homes are as good as fire traps waiting to combust into tragedy. The homes do not meet even minimal fire code regulations.

And that responsibility to ensure conformity to fire code regulations rests with those who hold positions of tribal authority, much as elected officials in towns, villages and cities across the country have an obligation to ensure that safety and security are assured for all residents through applicable laws and regulations, monitored as need be.

Too few homes in First Nations communities have smoke or fire alarms installed, despite that it is mandatory to have them.

Even in homes that have installed these warning and safety devices, they may be turned off as nuisances, or fail to have batteries replaced. Wood burning stoves are often installed without adequate regard to fire protection barriers under or behind stoves. When hazards such as this are brought to the attention of councils they often respond that they lack adequate funds to act on the matter.

Instances where volunteer firefighters have been unable to attend to a fire resulting from trucks and equipment in poor condition abound. Dead truck battery, or the keys can't be found, or water was left in the tank. In one recorded instance, the electrical bill was left unpaid so the main heater in the garage no longer was operational and the water in the tanker froze, damaging the fire truck. Theft and vandalism are other root causes.

And, as far as this professional authority in fire prevention and compliance is concerned, financial support "provided to First Nations for on-reserve fire suppression consists of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada funding to provide fire halls, fire-protection trucks, and other firefighting equipment. Ironically, the National Fire Protection Association level of service standards are higher for reserves than for off-reserve communities, yet fire losses for the former are much greater."

Stopping and preventing further such tragedies is entirely within the realm of responsive possibility.  The solutions include fire code inspections, educational programs, installation and maintenance of smoke and fire alarms in all homes and home inspections, particularly with wood source appliances installed.

This is the work of a responsible reserve council.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet