Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fire protection and housing concerns leave one Metlakatla resident upset

The Daily News from Wednesday August 26th provided a look at the worries of one resident of Metlakatla, who was less than impressed with the Band Council’s handling of her housing situation and her concerns over fire protection.

The story was featured as the Daily’s front page headline article for the day.

Two fires to her home in one week has local resident concerned
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Pages one and three

A Metlakatla woman claims two fires that erupted in her home in less then one week were very preventable.

Lori Bryant said on Tuesday that damage caused by the fires – one in her kitchen and the first one in her seventh-month old son’s room – could have been dealt with faster if she had a smoke detector in her house and it he fire department in the village was operational.

“This is the first time our fire department has been out of commission in ten-plus years,” Bryant said. “Are we supposed to put out a burning house with buckets?’

Bryant, who is also a volunteer fire fighter, said the Metlakatla band policy, which she says is allegedly creating unnecessary red tape in order to keep the fire department closed.

Bryant claimed the band council told her that the fire truck could be run only once a week so that they could perform practices.

That promise was contingent on the availability of the one person in the village with a Class 5 license.

If he is not there, they can’t use the truck at all – even for emergency situations.

The First Nations Emergency Services gave village members free fire fighting training, which included training on the truck, but Bryant said they haven’t been able to put it to use.

Compounding her worries were two fires in her home that went undetected until they damaged her home.

She said that’s because she doesn’t have a fire detector, something she said many homes in Metlakatla are deprived of.

On the evening of July 31, a small fire broke out in her son’s room but it went unnoticed by Bryant because there was no smoke detector in her room.

“I went up to my son’s room and the wall by the heater was black. I said to myself: ‘what the hell is that,’ Bryant said of her ordeal.

“I turned the heater off and I phoned the band office on Friday morning about the fire and there was nothing the band could do anywhere on a Friday.

“So, I had to wait all weekend in my house.”

Bryant doesn’t use the heater in her home during the day and only turns it on at night to keep her son warm; who was born with a collapsed lung and a broken rib. Because the heater was the cause of the first fire, she was unable to warm her home during the weekend.

Then, on Aug. 3, while cooking a salmon dish on her stove, the stove caught fire, engulfing her entire kitchen and leaving the room unusable.

She was able to get her son and herself out before help arrived.

When they did, she was asked to go over to the firehouse and retrieve her fire gear to help put the fire out.

Bryant said it’s time the Metlakatla council did something about it.

“Because it is a band-owned house and I just rent from them they are liable to fix it,” Bryant said

Bryant claims that she had approached band council several times on the issue, but hasn’t been able to come up with any solutions with either Chief Harold Leighton or band manager Fran Reece.

On August 21 she approached band council again to discuss the matter but she was told to write a letter to council.

“Why couldn’t they have told me this on August 4? I still have bugs crawling in and out of my house because there is a hole in my kitchen wall from where the fan used to be. That needs to be fixed.”

Bryant had lived away from Metlakatla for 12 years and only recently moved back. She returned to Metlakatla to raise a family but given her living conditions is seriously considering moving away again.

The Metlakatla leadership has not allayed one of fears and wonders if they will ever be dealt with.

Metlakatla band council chief Harold Leighton could not be reached for comment before the deadline.

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