Man who saved girl from fatal fire in Saskatchewan says no volunteers showed up - InfoNews

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Man who saved girl from fatal fire in Saskatchewan says no volunteers showed up

A house burns in Pelican Narrows, Sask. in an RCMP handout photo. A man who rescued a 10-year-old girl from a deadly house fire in a northern Saskatchewan aboriginal community says no one responded to the blaze.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Peican Narrows RCMP
January 22, 2014 - 12:43 PM

PELICAN NARROWS, Sask. - A man who rescued a 10-year-old girl from a deadly house fire in a northern Saskatchewan aboriginal community says no one responded to the blaze.

Larry Custer told radio station CKOM there were no firefighting volunteers to help him pull Hope Ballantyne from the flaming home in Pelican Narrows on Saturday.

Custer said equipment, including a fire truck, is available on the reserve, but nobody has signed up to volunteer. He said many residents don’t see the benefit of risking their lives to fight fires because they aren't getting paid.

"The people don’t want to really get into it," Custer told the station. "We’ve got a fire truck and a lot more people need training.

"Nobody wants to be a part of it."

Two boys, age nine and 10, were killed in the fire. The girl who was pulled from the burning home was being treated in a Winnipeg hospital with second- and third-degree burns.

Custer identified the boys as Josiah Ballantyne and Solomon Ballantyne.

Chief Peter Beatty of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation said Tuesday that equipment on the reserve is dated and firefighters are unable to deal with structural blazes.

Beatty said he's been hounding Aboriginal Affairs for years about improved firefighting. He said officials have responded by saying the community would need to front 50 per cent of the cost for a new fire station.

Saskatchewan's children's advocate said issues around a lack of firefighting ability must be addressed.

"I was very upset after seeing the pictures in the media this week of what was left of the house after the fire," Bob Pringle said in a statement.

"Children have a right to be safe in their homes. Whatever issues there are around lack of access and funding for fire equipment, and a shortage of volunteer firefighters, this needs to be addressed."

Pringle said it's his understanding the fire may have been started accidentally by the children and fire safety education may be needed as well.

It's not the first time firefighting capacity on remote reserves has been an issue.

In 2011, residents of the St. Theresa Point First Nation in Manitoba were force to use snow to put out a fire that killed a two-month-old girl. Media reports at that time said the community's fire truck was broken down, didn't have any hoses and no one knew where the keys were.

Later that year, two children and an elder died in a fire on the Gods Lake Narrows First Nation, also in Manitoba. The chief said 200 people showed up to help, but the community didn't have a fire truck and had to rely on two water trucks to fight the flames.

(CKOM, CKBI, The Canadian Press)

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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