Mother describes frantic scene trying to get daughter out of house fire

Jen Wabano says the moments outside of her burning house were frantic as she ran in and out of her burning house in Weenusk/Peawanuk First Nation trying to find her daughter.

“I went back in there and I couldn’t even go beyond the kitchen island because that’s how it was, already so fast, there was already black smoke and I couldn’t really see anything, there was really smokey and the pressure was a lot like the pressure like the fire was just going this (swirling) and I couldn’t see the floor.

Wabano said after not being able to find her, she started flagging down passing vehicles. But it was too late.

Her daughter, Joleigh Cora, or J.C., as she was called, died in the house fire on Jan. 28.

Wabano said she had just stepped outside to the garage to get an extension cord to plug her car in. By the time she went back inside, the house was in flames. She had managed to get all of the six kids outside – except J.C.

House fire
Wabano with her daughter.

She said her other 10-year-old daughter, who is 10 months younger than J.C. was crying for her sister J.C. who was still in the bedroom.

“She liked to laugh, she loved her hugs, so we always hugged,” Wabano told APTN News. “There was hardly ever a day that we went without hugging and saying ‘I love you.’ You know and the good nights.  She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up and she loved riding around on the Ski-Doo trails she loved going for rides.”

Weenusk/Peawanuk First Nation is an isolated Cree community, located on the Hudson Bay lowlands.  The community of 240 has no fire fighting resources.

In February, NDP MP Charlie Angus brought the tragic story to the floor of the House of Commons, asking when adequate fire protection services would be provided to the community.

In 2022, Angus said he’d written to the minster of Indigenous Services, about the lack of firefighting equipment in Weenusk/Peawanuk First Nation.

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