Fire department did not respond to deadly fire because FN 3 months behind on fire bill

The Loon Lake volunteer fire department did not respond to a deadly house fire Tuesday on a neighbouring First Nation [cut “reserve”] because the band council was three months behind on its fire bill, according to documents obtained by APTN National News.

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Loon Lake volunteer fire department did not respond to a deadly house fire Tuesday on a neighbouring First Nation because the band council was three months behind on its fire bill, according to documents obtained by APTN National News.

Loon Lake’s fire chief said he received an automated call about the fire Tuesday morning, but didn’t respond because the band had allegedly cancelled their contract with the Loon Lake municipality.

Makwa Sahgaiehcan Chief Richard Ben said he thought the band was paying for firefighting.

Local RCMP officers were the first responders at the scene of the fire on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation which left two young children dead.

RCMP officers watched the children’s biological father bring his two-year-old boy and 18-month-old daughter out of the burning home. The two children were pronounced dead at the scene and their grandmother, who was also in the house, was taken to hospital, treated and later released.

Documents obtained by APTN National News show the First Nation had a fee-for-service arrangement with the Loon Lake volunteer fire department. The fire department did not respond to the fire because the band was three months behind on their fire bill, according to a letter sent to the band by the Village of Loon Lake. The band was sent the letter on Jan. 30 and it was written by the village administrator.

“The band is now well over three months behind on payments for their fire bills,” said the letter from village administrator Laurie Lehoux, who is also the fire department’s bookkeeper. “The Loon Lake Fire Department will not be responding to any fires on the First Nations until this account is paid in full.”

The band had entered into a fee-for-service agreement with Loon Lake on Jan. 24, 2013. A clause in the agreement stated that the band wouldn’t receive fire services if it failed to pay its fire bills within 30 days.

The band cancelled its retainer agreement for services with Loon Lake in October 2012.

The tragedy hit the floor of the House of Commons Wednesday during question period. NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Niki Ashton asked Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt why people on reserves were 10 times more likely to die in a fire than in other communities.

“How could this happen?” said Ashton.

Valcourt accused Ashton of trying to “score political points from the death of children.” Valcourt said his department was funding fire safety “education and awareness” on reserves.

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-with files from The Canadian Press

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44 thoughts on “Fire department did not respond to deadly fire because FN 3 months behind on fire bill

  1. Here’s what needs to happen, The money sent to the band for fire protection obviously never went where it was to go, From now on, money should be sent directly to the fire dept each year for the communities they are protecting, no band, chief or anyone else see’s the money, if you have to take matters this way to protect children , then PROBLEM SOLVED, no more second guessing who’s responsible

  2. Of course your response cannot be accused of being partisan. Way to go making an obvious effort to get along with your neighbours – you should be proud.

  3. I don’t know about CA, but in the US Indian Nation Councils have a certain, well earned reputation for “not doing anything”. Too much old-blood, holding too many grudges against families for something that happened 5 generations ago, etc. Even though it’s a tragedy children died, the fault lies with the council who were probably operating with their own ulterior motives when they decided not to pay their bill; the consequence – people died. The fire department was perfectly legitimate in not responding. Why would they? For all they knew, the Tribe was handling their own fire fighting needs.

  4. APTN seems to have no problem allowing misplaced aggression in the form of profanity laced tirades at “The evil Harper Cons”, but are having a very hard time allowing comments that suggest personal accountability, and the responsibility of the leadership may require some examination.
    Does anyone care that in spite of the fact the band and council are making huge amounts of cash they were still blew the fire budget?
    Does anyone care that they had received warnings that their services would be cut off it they did not make good on their obligations which resulted in this tragedy?!

  5. I am blown away by how many people here are attacking the fire fighters!!
    The band and council had been GIVEN the necessary financial recourses to keep this service going!
    The band and council were WARNED the service would stop unless they met their financial obligations!
    The band and council have been rewarding themselves VERY well financially over the past many years!
    Follow the money and you will see who made the decisions that led to this tragedy! These children’s blood is on the hands of the band and council.
    Also the theme from so many posters here is “I am always entitled without exception”
    Well I’m not, so you aren’t either.

  6. I always had the highest regards for firefighters in my head they could do no wrong they saved lives! now police is another issue..but to have the RCMP be the first responders they have my respect for at least being there…I know I wouldn’t want to live in a first Nation community without fire protection and I can at least say I did grew up on one and its scary to think that if my house was burning to the ground with my kids inside I would hope the fire department would at least do their job and worry about money later…some one has to be accountable …

  7. WHY are we not placing blame where it TRULY belongs…AT THE VERY TOP!!! The federal Conservative government LOST 300 BILLION DOLLARS, yet people are pointing the finger at the Band Council of this reserve for not paying a few THOUSAND for LIFE SAVING SERVICES?!?!?


  8. Taxes, budgets, etc, are used to pay for these services. Guess who choose not to pay taxes.
    It’s very similar to people on welfare that abuse the system, and people get feed up with it.
    Do you think that some people are Fed up with the actions , of the aboriginal, first nation, Indiana, whatever you want to call us. Yes, my mother is an Indian, I’m not politically correct and I want no part of my card. We need to get over the old way of thinking that the white man took the land. The first nation people need to stop being so lazy and sucking off the government anything that they can get for free, get a real job, pay taxes when you buy things, pay your income taxes, be apart of this country like everyone else and you won’t have Bullshit incidences like our Canadian children dying in fires. Stop segregating yourselves!

  9. The blame falls 100% on the band council. But that’s ok idiots, go ahead and let them off the hook like we always do. You’re all just part of the problem.

  10. ppl depend on the fire department just like they depend on cops and doctors for help in emergency situations, it’s sad how a fire chief can say NO to saving lives because he wants money?? DISGUSTING!!!!

  11. This is so disgusting. Fire fighters should walk in shame knowing they just stayed in bed while 2 babies died in a fire. Because of an unpaid bill. This is so crazy it breaks my heart picturing that daddy with his to babies. Shame on you all involved in this tragic event. My prayers to the family may your sweet little angels rest in peace and may justice be served.

  12. If you dont pay bills you dont get services. Those kids would be alive
    today if the FN had actually do what people an organizations do everyday
    in this country. PAY YOUR BILLS. People talk about greed? It’s a volunteer fire department who along with everything in that town has to be pay bills. Pay for upkeep for the fire department trucks, pay for the water, pay for the firefighters costs themselves

    The monster are whoever are in charge at the FN who chose to tack a slack ass view to everyday normal responsibilities. They had the money the simply to put their own people at risk rather than pay. If the blood for these kids ends up on anyone’s hands its the council of the FN

  13. i find it sad that so much blame is being passed. Maybe the fire department should have gone anyhow. But what everyone is saying at the end of the day is: “don’t pay your bills… It’s your right to have the services anyhow.” I don’t agree with much of this entire situation because a life lost is worth so much more than money. But in the same hand…. If they had outstanding bills on a service that is potentially life threatening, then those should have been paid!

    1. Or maybe they should be billing the province when municipalities don’t pay up. Or maybe all firefighter departments operating like this should have a mandatory step-down/hand-off mechanism in place that ensures no one is ever left without essential services over a billing dispute or whatever caused this to happen.

      I’d be angry with the band for not feeling the urgency of getting this resolved, but I think that interruption of an essential service is just unacceptable for any reason. Legal means, or requiring an escrow account, or something should have been part of the landscape.

      Some of the people here, getting off on screaming ‘pay your bills!’ really sound like monsters.

  14. The Band Council sure be held responsible for the health and welfare of their people .. and the buck has to stop there,, blaming other communities for the lack on funds is passing the buck

    1. i’m interested in knowing where Makwa’s new expensive firetruck was during the fire. I know they have one, maybe someone with the resources could find more info about it.
      I also dont believe any volunteer fire dept would have been able to make a difference by the time they would have been able to respond.

  15. If you don’t pay your phone bill and your phone gets cut off and your child chokes to death cause you cant call 911 is that Sasktels fault….Chiefs need to take responsibily, quit lying about how they spend there money and quit passing the buck….its always someone elses fault…right?

  16. It is an enormous tragedy for the family and community. My heart aches for the little ones and their family. I don’t agree with outrage being directed at Loon Lake however. Who should be held responsible? I don’t understand why a small municipality like Loon Lake would be expected to pay the wages of the firefighters and for equipment and supplies for another community. Fire and policing costs are very heavy for small towns. And now people are demanding why this small community isn’t paying that price for a neighboring FN community as well. Why didn’t the FN band pay for it’s previous fire calls? And who there is administering funds in such a way that even the most basic needs like fire calls on a pay per use basis aren’t being covered? They cancelled their contract (ongoing coverage) and agreed to pay per call. They didn’t and were several months behind. I don’t have the answers but someone should be held accountable. I guarantee that most members of that FN community had no idea that they didn’t have fire coverage.

    1. The Canadian Press shows Makwa Sahgaiehcan was given just over $11,000 for fire protection in each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.

      One has to wonder what kind of fire fighting base $11,000 would buy for a community of nearly 1000 people?

      1. 11,000 a year, I wonder how much the fire department was charging a year….I wanna know if the 11,000 they were given covered the whole yearly cost or if they had to pull extra monies from a different department to pay the difference…..If the 11,000 didn’t cover the annual cost for the fire services then the government is to blame for lack of funding….

  17. Horrible, it’s two about two lives cut way to short and all you greedy fucker’s are talking about is money!!!!!!! Bull shit and shame on you!!! I wonder how you would react if it was your family Ms. Laurie Lahoux Sooo sad my condolence and prayer’s going out to this poor family WHO by the way had no hand in owing anybody money. I wonder if you all from Loon Lake Fire Department can sleep at night knowing that you could have done something, hug your children because you still can!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Wow…the firefighters I have known are noble people who took their calling seriously and would NEVER have let something like money stop them from doing their duty. This is beyond appalling. Those responsible should be criminally charged with the childrens deaths…really…they let it happen so they bear some responsibility.

  19. l guess the almighty dollar is worth more than children`s lives nowadays, what a bloody shame to the firefighters!

    1. Do not blame the firefighters. IF they dont get dispatched they have no idea whats going on. you want someone to blame, blame the person who did not dispatch them also blame the FN people responsible for paying their bills

  20. The person(s) who didn’t pay the bill probably should be charged. Clauses in contracts are real just like if you don’t pay your phone bill; it gets disconnected. Blaming the volunteer firefighters is acknowledging that its ok to deflect personal responsibility of the person(s) responsible for not paying the contract.

    1. let me explain you idiot…a child is not a phone, a child is not a power bill…a child is a child, nothing to be contracted over. you are oversimplifying the situation, which of course, considering your stance, perfectly apt.

      1. I don’t think calling him an “idiot” is going to make you seem anymore victimized. He is sadly, tragically, inexcusably and disgustingly right.

        If a child dies from dehydration, it’s the person who refused to pay the water bill and give the child water who will be charged. In this case, there was always a risk penny punching such things and look what happens, two children die. I don’t think it’s right, I condemn the firefighter, and all involved, but the simple and plain fact is NOBODY here is right and two kids are dead, no need to name call.

      2. Let me explain to you idiot…..
        If you don’t pay your phone bill and your child is choking and you can’t call 911, it isn’t the phone companies fault!
        If you don’t pay your hydro bill and you all freeze to death, it’s not the hydro companies fault!
        If you want to place blame, ask who didn’t pay the bill!

      3. It is too bad that the band apparently had the attitude to children you are blaming Mr. Carter for – if they cared more about their children they would pay their bills.

      4. In many ways you are over simplifying the situation. If they dont pay who will? Yes its a tradgey and yes it would have been the best case scenario if they had rushed there and saved them regardless but fighting fires it not cheap and massive cuts are already happening across the country some areas don’t have service for over 20 mins this is because of low funding. If we contuine to live in a country with low taxes then these kind of stories will keep happening. I think this tradgedy is only the tip of the ice berg as governments become businesses and life is assigned a value. But would you be willing to pay 20% tax?

    2. Et que faites-vous du principe élémentaire d’assistance à personnes en danger? APRÈS que des vies aient été sauvées, un arrangement financier aurait pu être négocié, même exigé.

    3. Since when did MONEY become more important than HUMAN LIVES?!?!?! You compare a PHONE BILL to someone’s CHILDREN?!?!?!

      What if they were YOUR children that had died?!?!?! Are YOU going to care then that the damn bill didn’t get paid?!?!?!

  21. This is a tragedy on so many levels. I don’t know how just the sense of decency and humanity could be thrown out because of an outstanding bill. I can’t even comprehend how the sheer instinct to save anyone, but especially a child, could be over-ridden so callously. Shame on them, shame on this government who allows people to be left with so little basic resources. Shame on Canada.

  22. I find it very sad that in this world we live in now it is all about money. Used to be we could count on our all of us (our neighbours) to take care of each other. In our area once of our houses was threatened by a forest fire and our local municipal VOLUNTEER fire department attended to watch the structure while Forestry workers battled the blaze all around. We did not have an “official” agreement nor did money change hands. Fundraising by these departments is made not just withing “non-native” communities but supported by all of us. I wonder if the Band’s numbers were utilized by the fire department in any of their fund raising, grants or proposals?

    1. to serve and protect, Creator, I pray these children death will no be in vain. my prayers and thought to their family

    2. Are you kidding me? WE, the taxpayers, pay for these services! Now, with 2 innocent children dead, because of money, MONEY, I say add ALL First Nations reserves fire fighting costs to our Provincial budget. Period. Paid in full every month. And…to make up for this cost – EVERYONE who is injured or trapped in skiing accidents, mountain climbing, hockey, skateboarding, etc…will pay for ALL rescue and/or medical costs. If they can afford the risk, they can afford the consequences. TWO innocent little kids dead over an invoice! Disgusting and appalling. This needs to be shown around the world!

  23. How does that even happen? It’s disgusting and the municipality that refused to respond should be held criminally responsible for the deaths of those children. My Grandfather was a fireman, I can’t even imagine him ever refusing to respond to a fire. Life is more important than money. How does the leaders of this municipality sleep at night? This world has lost all empathy for others. Our government sends millions overseas to help 3rd countries yet let’s something thus happen in our own country.

    1. Right…
      If you want to blame the government consider the following:
      The Federal government DID give the funds needed for fire fighting in the community.
      The local band and council DID NOT use those funds as intended.
      Place the anger where it belongs

    1. Do not blame the firefighters. IF they dont get dispatched they have no idea whats going on blame the person who did not dispatch them also blame the FN people responsible for paying their bills

  24. Used to be people would try to save lives, no natter what. Now, apparently children, Indigenous children in particular, are not worth much any more. Appalled and ashamed.

    1. The only people that these indigenous lives didn’t matter to were their indigenous leadership. The band and council was given funds, followed by warnings when the funds weren’t used properly. The fire department were not accessible to the region because of the band and councils decisions.
      They DID decide though to keep themselves very wealthy though.

  25. sickening how can they live with themselves fuckin monsters 2 children are gone and all they can talk about is bills they should be charged!

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