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Children escape fatal fire on Wasagamack First Nation

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A 14-year-old boy and a three-year-old child escaped a fatal fire Friday morning that killed two adults at a northern Manitoba First Nation.

Wasagamack First Nation Chief Alex McDougall said it’s believed the two boys’ parents died in the blaze police said was caused by careless cooking. He wouldn’t name the couple, saying their identities have not yet been confirmed by post-mortem.

McDougall said the fire could have been prevented if more policing and social services were available to First Nations like his.

There was a party the night before the fire at the home, he said. People were reportedly drinking "super juice," — an illegal, cheap, powerful and sometimes deadly home brew, he said.

When the children escaped the house fire at about 8 a.m., there was no dispatch service available because of funding cuts at the First Nation that’s under third-party management, McDougall said.

The reserve has a fire truck and people trained in firefighting but too few police who handle the dispatch of emergency calls. He said they have two band constables in a community of 2,000, when they should have a police officer for every 200 people. Not having enough police — especially in remote First Nations with lots of poverty, a shortage of housing and few job opportunities — is a problem for many first nations, he said.

"There are many social problems in communities like ours," McDougall said.

Wasagamack is 280 kilometres southeast of Thompson.

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