Broken alarm slowed response to Ross River fire

Two bodies have been recovered from a gutted single-unit house that burned in Ross River last Thursday. Jennifer Glada and Terry Peters, both in their early 20s, are missing, said Ross River Dena Council Chief Gordon Peters.

Two bodies have been recovered from a gutted single-unit house that burned in Ross River last Thursday.

Jennifer Glada and Terry Peters, both in their early 20s, are missing, said Ross River Dena Council Chief Gordon Peters.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but a broken alarm may have slowed firefighters’ response to the emergency.

The fire broke out at around 1 a.m. Thursday morning. But when fire chief Michael Powaschuk went to alert the town’s firefighters, the siren didn’t work.

“The main siren wasn’t working,” said Powaschuk.

There were five firefighters at the scene, he said.

“We do also have a radio-pager system,” he said. “We would have been a little bit swifter with the siren system that alerts everybody who doesn’t have a radio or a telephone.”

“But in the case of this fire, I don’t think the fatalities would have been saved.”

Powaschuk referred all other questions to Yukon fire marshal Marty Dobbin. He was unavailable for comment.

In a news release issued Thursday, the RCMP reported everyone in the burning house had escaped alive and there were no missing persons.

That account came from an unidentified fire official, said spokesperson Sgt. Mark Groves.

Friday, a second release said a single body had been found in the house. On Monday morning, another news release stated a second body had been found.

The RCMP have determined no survivors escaped the blaze, said Groves.

“There were two bodies discovered in the residence and we’re interviewing everyone in the community,” he said. “We have forensic identification specialists looking at the scene to determined how the fire started.

“At this time, I can’t speculate or say who the victims are.”

The bodies are being transported to Vancouver for an autopsy this week, said Groves.

Groves wasn’t aware Ross River’s alarm system was not working.

This isn’t the first time a broken siren has failed Yukon firefighters. In May 2007, both the siren and a fire truck didn’t work when a house fire broke out in Old Crow.

No lives were lost, but the close call started a blame game between local leaders and the territorial government.

The territory is supposed to provide the communities with firefighting equipment, said deputy chief Roger Kyikavichik at the time.

The Yukon’s fire station equipment is outdated and from the 1960s, said Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias at the time.

Economic Development minister Jim Kenyon told the legislature that the communities are responsible for recruiting firefighters.

Dobbin responsible for providing safety inspections, supporting community fire stations and reporting to the government on the Yukon’s firefighting needs, says its website.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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