The Keno City Hotel is seen on fire Dec. 11 in Keno City. A group of Keno City residents in the 24-person community called for the independent public inquiry into the lack of fire protection in the community in a Dec. 14 letter following the fire that destroyed the hotel. (Kevin O’Hara/Facebook)

The Keno City Hotel is seen on fire Dec. 11 in Keno City. A group of Keno City residents in the 24-person community called for the independent public inquiry into the lack of fire protection in the community in a Dec. 14 letter following the fire that destroyed the hotel. (Kevin O’Hara/Facebook)

Keno residents call for public inquiry into fire protection

Minister states support for inquiry

Community Services Minister John Streicker has indicated he will support an independent public inquiry into fire protection in small communities like Keno City.

In a Dec. 15 interview, Allan Koprowsky, the assistant deputy minister for protective services, said the minister had stated his support for such an inquiry though details on how that would happen still need to be worked out.

A group of Keno City residents in the 24-person community called for the independent public inquiry into the lack of fire protection in the community in a Dec. 14 letter following the Dec. 11 fire that destroyed the Keno City Hotel.

In the Dec. 14 open letter to Premier Sandy Silver, Streicker, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon, NDP leader Kate White, Mayo-Tachun MLA Don Hutton and Yukon Fire Marshal James Paterson, the Keno City Residents Council recalled efforts to talk with the Yukon government about fire service in the community after the fire marshal’s office removed the fire truck from Keno in April 2019. The water reservoir tank in the fire/water building in the community was also removed and the building housing the water truck and firefighting protective equipment was also locked and keys unavailable to residents, it was noted.

“Despite our best efforts in this dialogue with the Yukon government, not only have we not gained any further services or assistance in Keno, but we have lost and continue to lose critical services which has and continues to diminish our capacity in town,” the Keno City residents council stated in the letter. “This loss of capacity reached a heart-breaking climax in Keno City on Friday night, December 11, 2020, as the residents watched fire consume the historic Keno City Hotel.”

The lack of firefighting capability in Keno meant residents were left using their own fire extinguishers and garden hoses to keep the fire from spreading to other nearby buildings while they waited for water trucks to come in from Alexco Resources and the nearest volunteer fire department in Mayo.

“After using the water supply in the Mayo fire truck and the Alexco water truck, Mayo firemen asked for access to the full water truck in the Keno building,” reads the letter. “Locals advised them that we had no key to the building and Mayo Fire were not prepared to force the door for more water. Luckily the fire was burning itself out by then.

“Simply put, it was a very dangerous situation in which Keno City had no equipment and no support from the government. We got extremely lucky no one was in the hotel and there was little or no wind that night or much more of the town would have burned. We understand that we are not the only community where fire protection has been completely withdrawn by the Yukon government.”

The letter goes on to argue for the independent public inquiry over the lack of fire protection in Yukon communities “before someone dies or is horribly injured.”

“We shall not rest until Keno City has an acceptable level of fire response and protection.”

The issue has continued to come up in the legislature as recently as Nov. 17, when White questioned Streicker about it. Streicker emphasized volunteers trained to use the equipment are needed. As of late summer, the government still had not received any completed registration packages for volunteers, he said.

“Again, all love to Keno, but in order for us to get them equipment for people to operate safely and be trained for, then we need those volunteers,” Streicker said.

Koprowsky said the Keno community has been without a volunteer fire department since 2012.

With no active members for a number of years, the fire truck that was in the community was removed and subsequently deemed unserviceable, he said.

Koprowsky said while the territory provides training to volunteer firefighters who pass a basic screening, a community needs at least six members to have a volunteer department, which would ensure there’s enough members to deal with firefighting, provide backup and operate the equipment.

“It’s a challenge in a community of only a couple of dozen people,” he said, acknowledging there are a couple of other Yukon communities dealing with similar challenges.

He stressed the importance of volunteer firefighters being able to safely operate equipment before it can be provided to a community, pointing out that there are a number of occupational health and safety regulations that must be met.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

firefirefightersYukon government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Industrial Road bus stop relocated

Transit users making their way on routes along Industrial Road will notice… Continue reading

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read