Update: 3 children perish in Sandy Lake First Nation fire

The Ontario fire marshal and Nishnawbe Aski Police Serviceare investigating the fatal fire

Fires

Sandy Lake First Nation is located in northern Ontario northwest of Thunder Bay. Photo: APTN


Three children, aged 3 to 9, perished in a house fire on Sandy Lake First Nation in northern Ontario Friday.

Lisa Meekis said the home of her son, Delaynie Meekis, and daughter-in-law, Cassandra Meekis, caught fire during the early morning.

She said the family used a wood stove to heat their home and the blaze started in the chimney.

“Everything was lost,” Lisa said in an interview from Sandy Lake. “What’s more heartbreaking is the fact we lost three grandchildren. That I can never get back.”

Lisa said the family had six children. She said the mother, her two oldest sons and a baby escaped the fire.

Grant Meekis, 9, Remi Meekis, 6, and Wilfred Fiddler, 3, did not survive.

“I put all my faith in God that he will watch over them,” Lisa said. “My lil angels.”

The Ontario fire marshal and Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) are investigating the fatal fire.

Condolences poured in Friday to the First Nation situated 600 kms northwest of Thunder Bay and accessible only by air or winter road.

“I send our thoughts and prayers to the family, first responders and community of Sandy Lake First Nation at this difficult time,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse in a press release.

NAN represents approximately 45,000 people from 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. The release said NAPS and Ontario Provincial Police are assisting the fire marshal in the investigation.

“This tragedy comes at a very challenging time,” said Narcisse. “We encourage everyone to join the community in prayer and find ways to comfort one another as we grieve this terrible loss.”

Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous services and member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Superior North, tweeted out condolences Friday as well.

“I am absolutely heartbroken to learn of the deaths of three children in Sandy Lake First Nation due to a recent house fire,” said Hajdu. “This will be an extremely difficult time for the community as they mourn the loss of these young people.”

Hajdu said she has reached out to Sandy Lake Chief Delores Kakegamic and offered to provide federal assistance in the coming days and weeks.

Ontario Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford also tweeted thoughts and prayers to the family and community.

In July 2021, NAN and the Chiefs of Ontario urged different levels of government to help increase fire safety in First Nations communities after the province’s chief coroner highlighted how poor housing conditions and a critical lack of prevention services can have devastating effects.

The coroner found communities with no year-round road access had the highest number of fatal fires as well as the highest number of fire fatalities. Children and older adults have been found to be at greater risk, the report said.

“Everyone should be able to go to bed and expect to see their families in the morning, and it is unacceptable that our children are at such high risk,” said then-NAN grand chief Alvin Fiddler at the time.

With files by Kathleen Martens