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Iqaluit NorthMart to reopen Saturday, nine days after fire

Nine days after a blaze destroyed the warehouse abutting its Iqaluit store, NorthMart plans to reopen its doors Saturday, Nov. 17.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
An orange tarp covering the front doors of the Iqaluit NorthMart since the blaze last Thursday destroyed its warehouse abutting the main store has come down and the lights are on. The store is set to reopen Saturday Nov. 17.

"We are thrilled to re-open our store less than 10 days after the fire which destroyed our main warehouse," stated Alex Yeo, president of Canadian retail for The North West Company, in a news release.

"Thanks to the heroic efforts of the firefighters, first responders and RCMP, the fire damage was primarily contained to the main warehouse adjacent to our NorthMart store. Without their coordinated efforts, the store would likely have been lost."

The NorthMart fire was called in at 1:40 a.m. on Nov. 8. Firefighters worked throughout the night and all day to stop the blaze from spreading from the attached warehouse to the main portion of the store and the neighbouring elders' residence.

One youth was charged with arson and disregard for human life Nov. 9.

The company has been working around the clock, with the full support of local contractors, the Government of Nunavut (GN) and City of Iqaluit, according to the release.

At a city council meeting Oct. 13, councillors recognized the tireless efforts of firefighters.

"First and foremost, I really thank our firefighters. I think every time we drive by and see that building standing it's going to be a testament to the work they did when the fire was occurring as well as the training beforehand," said Coun. Kyle Sheppard.

"They did an incredible job. It's almost miraculous that building is still standing today. While it looked pretty dire initially, it's progressing pretty well at this point in time."

Sheppard was acting mayor when the crisis hit.

"Additionally, I'd like to thank the Hamlets of Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset for sending us their firefighters. They were able to come on short notice, arranged by the GN's emergency management team. They provided a lot of relief for our firefighters. They really played a big part in making sure our city had adequate coverage for fire protection," he said.

"Everybody worked together really well. The response was really spearheaded by (acting chief administrative officer) Amy Elgersma. She did an absolutely incredible job for the first two days, as well as over the weekend."

Sheppard said everybody pulled together – emergency response, city retailers, the community – very quickly and made a big impact to minimize the effects on the people of Iqaluit.

The North West Company also acknowledged the work of the firefighters in relation to how little damage there was to the main building.

"Thankfully there was minimal fire damage to the store, with portions of the facility sustaining smoke and water damage. Our dedicated employees and tradespeople have been working extremely hard to replenish our large assortment and re-open as quickly as possible and we thank them for their efforts. NorthMart is a major employer in the community, with 117 employees and it is important to resume operations for our committed employees and those they support," Yeo stated.

He added the company's "buyers and logistics team have also taken tremendous steps to replace a wide variety of the products that were lost or damaged as a result of the fire."

The company plans on rebuilding its warehouse, as well as making improvements to the store.

"We look forward to finalizing these improvements with the help of the City of Iqaluit and Government of Nunavut in the next month," stated Yeo.