The lack of 911 service has panicked Dawson residents for the second time in two weeks.
On Tuesday evening last week, winds picked up at the landfill, spreading a fire from the burn pile out of the contained area and towards some propane bottles, said Dawson Fire Chief Jim Regimbal.
The operator of the landfill, despite being a long-time Dawson resident, didn’t know the number to call to report the emergency.
He called a friend, who also didn’t know the number for the fire department. But the friend did have Regimbal’s personal cellphone number.
“I was actually in a meeting when my cellphone went off,” the fire chief said.
“Someone was panicking and said the landfill was on fire.”
Fire trucks from the Dawson and Klondike Valley fire departments were sent to the blaze. It would have been 10 minutes before the flames reached the propane bottles, said Regimbal.
Crews put out the fire in about 45 minutes, he said.
The week before a house fire in Dawson also left onlookers helpless, not knowing the right number to call.
A Good Samaritan helped pull a 19-year-old from the house with only minor injuries.
Both cases show the need for 911 service across the Yukon, said Regimbal.
“If they just had an easy number to remember, that panic would have been completely alleviated.”
Regimbal has been pushing for territory-wide 911 for years. He can’t understand why it isn’t in place yet, he said.
The government is currently working on an interim solution, which would play a recorded message when you call 911, allowing you to press “1” to call police, “2” to call an ambulance and “3” for the fire department.
It would only work from landlines, and it wouldn’t work at all in Old Crow. All of the phones involved in reporting this week’s landfill fire were cellphones.
The number for the fire department in Dawson is 993-2222. For emergency medical services call 993-4444 and for police call 993-5555.
The numbers are the same in Yukon’s other communities, except you have to trade out “993” for the three-digit prefix specific to the community that you are in.