Updated 13:20 Monday, June 15. A fire that destroyed Yellowknife’s Polaris Apartments is ‘suspicious’ according to RCMP.
One person, trapped inside a third-floor unit, was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation – as were three RCMP members.
Otherwise there were no serious injuries, but the building cannot be salvaged and its occupants have lost their homes and belongings.
Fire crews were alerted at 1:20am on Sunday and spent the night battling to contain the fire. The operation involved six trucks and 30 firefighters.
The intersection of 49 Street and 52 Avenue was subsequently blocked off throughout the day as crews slowly dismantled the smoldering building.
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“The cause of the fire is still under investigation, however this incident is considered suspicious,” said RCMP in a statement on Monday.
Polaris Apartments, opposite the Yellowknife Catholic Schools building, was operated by Northern Property REIT and contained 17 suites.
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, the City of Yellowknife said the cause of the fire remained under investigation.
“When the initial fire crew arrived on scene, they reported heavy smoke coming out of the entire building and flames venting out windows of the third floor,” read the city’s statement.
“The request for a full group alert was initiated as additional firefighters and equipment were required to fight the structure fire.
“All occupants of the apartment were evacuated by RCMP members prior to the arrival of the City of Yellowknife Fire Division except for one unit on the third floor, which was too involved with flames and smoke for the RCMP to gain access.
“Firefighters extinguished enough of the fire within this third-floor unit to gain access, and found one individual who was removed immediately and transported to the hospital for treatment.”
Photo update: More images of the fire from Sunday afternoon – on Facebook
The city said its firefighters were forced to evacuate the building when the roof and structural supports began to fail, and it took a number of hours to bring the fire under control.
Heavy equipment was then used to pull apart the building’s top floor, allowing firefighters access to flames protected by the roof structure.
The neighbouring Crestview apartment building was also evacuated as a consequence of the smoke generated by the fire.
Polaris tenants were given temporary accommodation in hotels across Yellowknife, including the Explorer and Yellowknife Inn, and met with Northern Property representatives on Sunday afternoon. RCMP investigators were also present, as was Glen Abernethy, the MLA representing the tenants’ Great Slave riding.
Northern Property says it’s doing all it can to find alternative housing for the families affected, but availability is limited.
A clothing drive has been established to help the tenants with a furniture drive due to begin later in the week, once housing arrangements have been finalized.
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