People in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, also known as Big Trout Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario, are mourning the deaths of five people in a house fire Thursday morning.
"We are in utter disbelief, as every community member is connected and impacted," Chief Donny Morris said in a written statement on Thursday. "Today our community mourns this tragic loss."
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, Morris said he was notified of the fire at around 5:00 that morning, and that police were waiting for the fire marshal to "verify what happened."
"Our thoughts and our hearts are with the surviving family members, their friends, and the community," they said. "We hope they find solace and strength in community, and feel an outpouring of love from across the province."
Mom, 4 kids dead in fire in northern Ontario First Nation
"It was a private residence with a single mom with her kids," he said. "Four children and one single parent."
"Especially when it comes down to kids, that's the hard part — when you know that these kids won't grow up and were lost tragically."
Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued a joint statement with the communitys representative at Queens Park, Sol Mamakwa, saying they joined with the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in their grief.
Morris said it was hard to fight the fire because houses in the community are old, and because the First Nation lacks proper firefighting equipment, including hydrants with enough water pressure.
The deadly blaze in KI comes barely three years since a fire in Pikangikum — another First Nation in northwestern Ontario — killed nine people, including a baby and two young children. In recent years, fires in nearby Wunnumin Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nations have also killed several people.
Those fires, along with another one in 2016 in Oneida First Nation near London, Ont., prompted Ontario's chief coroner to launch an expert review of why house fires in First Nations so often become tragedies, calling the number of deaths on reserves "disproportionate."
A 2010 federal study found that First Nations people on reserves are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people in the rest of Canada.
First Nations leaders, including Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the NishnawbeAski Nation, have blamed this on inadequate housing, unsafe building standards, lack of enforcement of building codes, and outdated or ineffective firefighting equipment.
Archibald also said she had been in touch with Morris, who had asked community members not to post pictures of the fire or speculate on its cause on social media.
Morris said Thursday he didn't yet know what caused the fire in KI, nor if the home had a working smoke alarm.
"I need the fire marshal and the investigation unit to give me these [answers]," he said, adding that people trying to rescue the family were also hurt.
"On behalf of the community, all I can ask for is prayers … because I can't take back what happened," Morris said.
"Our prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire community during this difficult time," Fiddler said in a statement.
KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG FIRST NATION, Ont. — Five people are dead after a Thursday morning fire in the remote Northwestern Ontario First Nation community.
A statement released early afternoon on behalf of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation confirmed the casualties, though identities of the victims have not been released.
"We are in utter disbelief as every community member is connected and impacted," Chief Donny Morris said in a statement. "Today, our community mourns this tragic loss."
"We are in utter disbelief," he said in a statement. "Today, our community mourns this tragic loss."
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation is located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The statement said more information will be released as additional details become available.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation officials said they have arranged for a team of crisis support workers to be sent to the community earlier Thursday.
“We were saddened to learn of the tragedy this morning and our prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire community during this difficult time. This is a devastating loss for the community. We have assured Chief and Council that we will support them in any way possible as they grieve in the days and weeks ahead,” Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said in a written statement.
“On behalf of the Mushkegowuk Council, Council of Chiefs and our citizens, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the community, the families and to the leadership of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug,” Solomon said.
Kenora MP Bob Nault released a statement expressing condolences with friends and families of those lost in the fire.
“When something like this happens in a community, it affects everyone, including those in nearby communities," Nault said in a statement.
“As we continue to mourn the lives of those lost, I offer my support in this time of unbelievable grief. In the coming days, I know community members will bring strength and support to each other as they work to overcome this tragedy.”
"Our thoughts and our hearts are with the surviving family members, their friends, and the community during this difficult time," the written statement said.
"We express our deepest condolences to everyone impacted by this tragic loss. We hope they find solace and strength in community, and feel an outpouring of love from across the province as they grieve together.”
A crowdfunding campaign has been established, with a goal of $10,000 to help cover travel costs for family members, food and shelter for volunteers and funeral costs.