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‘We can rebuild’: Iqaluit spa owner optimistic after devastating fire

Patience Chimhanda thankful for “continued community support” after her spa caught fire last week
The Nunavut Wellness Spa has been declared structurally unsound after the fire on March 11th, 2024. Photo courtesy of Patience Chimhanda.

Patience Sibanda was just boarding a flight from Arviat to Rankin Inlet on the morning of March 11 when she received a call from her husband Tatenda that their spa in Iqaluit had caught fire.

“It wasn’t clear the magnitude of it,” Sibanda told Nunavut News. “I didn’t know how severe it was at the time. I thought it would be out by the time I landed. It was a shock, obviously.”

The blaze, which started in a back room facing the plateau and soon spread so that smoke was pouring out of every window. The blaze rendered the building structurally unsound.

The Nunavut Wellness Spa and Academy has four employees besides Sibanda and her spouse.

While on the flight, Sibanda recalls, “I just prayed. We’re Christians. One thing that kept going through my head was ‘trust God in all things.’ I called my husband and we all prayed together.”

The cause of the fire remained unknown as of March 19, although the Iqaluit RCMP released a statement to Nunavut News declaring that “the RCMP did investigate the fire at the wellness spa and has deemed [it] not suspicious. The RCMP will not be investigating any further.”

The City of Iqaluit stated, “The RCMP Fire Investigator and the fire marshal have completed their investigation and deemed the fire accidental. There were no injuries in connection with the fire.”

Sibanda arrived in Rankin Inlet only to turn on her phone to a flood of social media photos and updates.

“I was still hopeful when I landed of ‘Oh they’re working on it,’” she says.

However, the damage to the business on Federal Road was too extensive to salvage the building.

Currently, the Sibanda and her husband are looking for a space to relocate their venture. They are still reeling from the shock and dealing with the aftermath, which leaves both the owners and their workers without a source of income in the meantime.

“It’s our employees too,” says Sibanda. “That’s their life as well. And as you know, it’s not easy finding that space [to operate a spa business]. It’s close to impossible… it’s not just [the] space, it’s also figuring out what services we can [now] provide.”

Dealing with the aftermath, she remarked, “You wake up every day, and it’s like, ‘now what?’ There’s not someone to walk you through it. I’m taking it one day at a time.

Thankful for community support

However, Sibanda remains serene and positive about the situation. She is, above all, thankful there was no loss of life or injury to any employees, customers or firefighters. She says the outpouring of support from Iqaluit residents has sustained her family and has been immensely touching.

A GoFundMe with a target of $15,000 was started almost immediately to get the business back on its feet.

In the meantime, the “offering of support, and friends saying, ‘If you just need a cup of coffee’… we didn’t realize until now how much of an impact the spa had on the community… it’s heart-warming and that’s why we want to keep it going,” Sibanda said.

“We just want to thank the community for the continued support. We hope to reopen soon, but we don’t know what that looks like yet. We ask everyone to keep us in their prayers through this journey.”

She remains upbeat, however. “The good thing about this is [the business] can be revived. We were so lucky that no one was injured. As much as it sucks, these are all just material things, and we can rebuild.”

About the Author: Kira Wronska Dorward

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