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Arson at Eabametoong school under investigation

By CJ Goater Jan 25, 2024 | 3:03 PM

Courtesy: Nishnawbe Aski Police Service

Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding a Thursday morning fire at John C. Yesno Education Centre in the Eabametoong First Nation (Fort Hope).

The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service received a call for service about a structural fire in the community just after 7:10 a.m. on Thursday.

When police arrived on scene they found the school engulfed in flames.

As a result of a continued investigation, police have determined the fire is consistent with arson, thankfully no injuries have been reported.

Two suspects, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old, were located and taken into custody.

A scene has been established and the investigation remains ongoing.

On Facebook, the school announced that “Due to extensive damage, the school building will not be available. The EFNEA Board and JCY team have already begun meeting to develop plans for the continuation of schooling as soon as possible.”

In a release issued by Matawa First Nations Management on behalf of Eabametoong, despite being given support to purchase two wildfire rapid attack trucks last October, due to the winter roads not being completed, they have not been able to arrive in the community for use.

This left first responders with no options other than to fight the fire with the few fire suppression resources available.

Leadership of the community say they are devastated by the fire stating it will render the school inoperable for the remaining five months of the school year, affecting 299 students from JK to Grade 9.

Chief Solomon Atlookan says while they work with community partners to address the immediate, short and long-term needs of education in the wake of the fire they will also be moving forward on the next steps of education.

“We will be continuing with our plans (on a more urgent basis) for a new school that we have had in the ISC capital project process over the past number of years already to replace JCY. To our community, we say—justice will prevail and together we will overcome.”