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Support provided to students and staff of Yarmouth County school following tragic house fire

A letter was sent home to all parents and guardians of students of Drumlin Heights to inform them of ways students and staff are being supported following a devastating house fire that occurred Jan. 7.
A letter was sent home to all parents and guardians of students of Drumlin Heights to inform them of ways students and staff are being supported following a devastating house fire that occurred Jan. 7. - Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH COUNTY, N.S. – Support is being provided to students and staff at a Yarmouth County elementary school following a tragic house fire that claimed the lives of two of the school’s students.

A critical intervention team was at Drumlin Heights Consolidated School – a Primary to Grade 12 school – on Monday, Jan. 8, to provide support to students and staff on their first day back to school following the fire that had occurred in Pubnico Head on Sunday, Jan. 7.

“The school and school board will continue to monitor this situation over the next couple of days and will provide any and all resources available to the school as needed,” Tri-County Regional School Board superintendent Paul Ash said on Monday.

Ash called the circumstances heartbreaking.

“(It is) an extremely tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” he said. “There are no words.”

The critical incident team is made up a school psychologist, the board’s School’s Plus facilitator who has a social work background, and a mental health clinician. The team is experienced in helping students and staff respond to incidences of trauma. They can also help school administration in terms of appropriate messaging to the staff and the students, said Ash.

A letter was also sent home Monday to all parents and guardians, written by principal Dwayne Landry.

“We have suffered a tragedy at our school,” he wrote. “In addition to our grief over the loss of these members of our school community, we are sensitive to the fact that such an event has an impact on other students.”

In addition to outlining what was being done at the school to support students and staff, the letter offered suggestions to parents on ways to talk with their children about the tragic event and to help them deal with their feelings and grief.

“If you think you child needs additional support, please do not hesitate to contact the school,” Landry wrote.

There has been much grief and sadness throughout Yarmouth County since the fire that claimed the lives of four young children. In addition to sharing their grief with the families affected by this tragedy, the community is stepping up to help the families during this difficult time. Countless individuals, organizations and businesses are doing what they can to show support and to provide help and assistance to those who lost loved ones in the fire.

The cause of the fire is still being determined. On Monday the Nova Scotia RCMP Major Crimes Unit had conducted its preliminary investigation and determined it was not suspicious. Such an investigation is standard when fatalities are involved.

“The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s Service has assumed the lead of the investigation under the Nova Scotia Fatality Investigations Act,” read a Jan. 7 RCMP media release. “The RCMP is continuing to assist the Medical Examiner’s Service and providing resources.”

“I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those lost in the fire as well as the community of Yarmouth as they grieve these extremely difficult losses,” Dr. Matthew Bowes, the Chief Medical Examiner in Nova Scotia, said in a Jan. 7 statement. “The Medical Examiner Service will be continuing our work over the coming days. The results will be shared directly with the families as well as the RCMP and the Office of the Fire Marshal.”

On Monday the RCMP also further expressed the heartache that continues to be felt by all.

"This is an absolute tragedy and the RCMP extends our sincerest condolences to the family members of the victims and to the community of Yarmouth," said RCMP Cpl. Jenn Clarke. "There are no words to express this type of devastation.”

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