Ross River deals with fire

The government is sticking to protocol when considering rebuilding the Ross River Recreation Centre.

The government is sticking to protocol when considering rebuilding the Ross River Recreation Centre.

The Department of Community Services has hired a company to clean up the dangerous remains of the centre that was destroyed by fire last week, but they have not committed any funding to rebuild.

“We’ll be working with the Ross River Recreation Society,” said Karen Thompson, director of sport and recreation with the department of community services.

“But it’s a bit early to come out and say we’re going to fund a new recreation centre. There has to be a planning process and we’re a ways down the road from that yet.

“Whenever we build recreation infrastructure in communities we go through a whole planning phase. I don’t think we’re trying to delay it, but we would take the natural process.”

The blaze destroyed the ice rink, weight room and youth centre – a central part of the community.

But summer is near, said Hartling, noting the swimming pool will be OK and a long-planned basketball court will still be built.

Expediting the process is the minister’s decision, she said.

Apart from assisting with the cleanup and establishing a team – which will include a recreation consultant from Community Services, a community adviser, people from the Ross River Dena Council and the Ross River Recreation Society – there is no further commitments until something concrete is decided by the team, said Minister Archie Lang.

While Hartling said a meeting has been set, the community doesn’t know when it is supposed to meet with the department, said Verna Nukon from the Ross River Recreation Society.

The society knows they are coming to the village, but they have no idea of when, just yet, she said on Tuesday afternoon.

Rebuilding the entire centre may not be the best option, said Hartling, noting they are looking at other places in the community to take on some of the roles the rec centre played, especially it’s role as a youth centre.

In fact, the community began offering activities for youth in the Margaret Thomson Healing Centre yesterday, Nukon said.

And the biggest, most immediate concern: getting the Ross River teams to the Native Hockey Tournament on March 25-27, seems to be OK, she said.

All of the teams’ hockey equipment was in the centre when it burned but since then, multiple community and corporate organizations have donated money and equipment and Faro has offered their ice for practice.

Plus Sport Yukon has a whole lot of hockey equipment for children and youth that the community can use, said Hartling.

While the cause of the fire is unknown, the investigation showed that it started on the main floor, in the weight room, said Kevin Taylor, deputy fire marshal for the territory.

The RCMP and fire marshal have announced they assume the fire was accidental.

While some suspect wiring was discovered during the investigation, the metal building was too unsafe and damaged to go any deeper on that lead, said Taylor.

“The firefighters did a great job out there, they had great difficulty – a lot of hurdles that they had to overcome,” Taylor said. “They did the best they could.”

The fire was already well underway by the time firefighters arrived, due, in large part, to the rubber mats in the weight room, said Taylor. The temperature was close to minus 40 degrees Celsius, which caused troubles with their pump and most of all, they had a limited water supply, Taylor added.

The Ross River fire truck and potable water truck only hold about 100 gallons each and there are no hydrants in the community, he said.

Both trucks were on scene and Faro was called for more water as well, he said.

Yet despite this, firefighters were able to keep the Zamboni shed, propane tanks, swimming pool and overhead electrical lines with joining transformers protected despite their proximity to the centre, he said.

While the community has brand-new equipment, the lack of water and the need for a little bit more training were both identified as lessons to be learned from this, said Taylor.

“But by the time the fire was discovered, it was a well, deep-seated fire,” he said. “It had already taken off to the point where it would be difficult for any fire department to battle and get the upper hand on.”

Predicted damages are in the $5-million range, said Taylor.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at