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Burnt house leads to flames and one lost Coke machine

Yukon officials torched a small log house near Salmo Lake in late October that was formerly occupied by a colony of brown bats, a Coke machine and…

Yukon officials torched a small log house near Salmo Lake in late October that was formerly occupied by a colony of brown bats, a Coke machine and David Acker.

Now Acker is burning mad.

“The Yukon government just took the cabin away and they kicked me off the property,” said Acker on Thursday.

“I’ve paid taxes there since 1977. The (federal) government gave me permission to live there — I have a letter to that effect,” he said.

But in the 30 years Acker has been using the house, authority over it has passed from Ottawa to the Yukon government, and finally to the Carcross/Tagish First Nations.

As part of Carcross/Tagish’s 2005 land claim deal, the structure was identified as a blight that needed to be removed, said Marg White, land use manager with Yukon lands branch.

“The First Nation that owns the land wanted it cleaned and cleared,” said White on Thursday.

Yukon government officials torched the house in late October as an obligation to Carcross/Tagish that was negotiated in the land claim, she said.

Before the cabin was destroyed, the required processes were followed — including several warning letters and meetings, said White.

And though Acker has been paying taxes, he has no title to the land or the house — which was originally built on a trapline by a trapper, she said.

“They (Acker) may have been paying taxes, but there was no legal tenure to the cabin,” she said. “Squatters still pay, but there’s no legal tenure to a site.”

When they destroyed the house, Yukon officials found its most recent residents were members of a colony of “about 800 brown bats,” said White.

Nearby there were more than 50 car batteries and other garbage, she added.

“It was a contaminated site that needed to be cleaned up.” 

The brown bats left the house before it was burnt, she added quickly.

Acker has been paying the Yukon government $99 in taxes every year since 1977 for the 7.5-metre-by-7.5-metre log house, he said.

Though he didn’t build the structure, he once lived in it as his only residence, he said.

When the brown bats took over the house a few years ago, he took a trailer to the site, where he lived while he worked trying to fix up the house, he said.

“I’d just go stay out there because I liked it out there.”

After paying taxes and making improvements on the cabin, Acker is miffed about how it was destroyed.

Though he never attended meetings or contacted Carcross/Tagish, he was given less than two weeks notice by the Yukon government that it was going to be torched, he said.

“I got something like 11 day’s notice to get off the property,” said Acker. “It’s not right.”

And adding to Acker’s consternation, it’s not clear what happened to his kitchen table and the Coke machine he once carried out to the house.

Carcross/Tagish officials didn’t return phone calls before press-time.