Fort Smith's RCMP detachment. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Police in Fort Smith say the children suspected of causing a fire in the town last weekend are too young to face charges.
Footage uploaded to Facebook on Sunday appeared to show a building on fire at or near the town’s Joseph B Tyrrell Elementary School. There were no reports of injuries.
At a town council meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Fred Daniels asked RCMP: “Are we getting anywhere in catching those kids?”
In response, Sgt Cagri Yilmaz said police had received a tip about four youths. One of the four named was out of town at the time, Yilmaz said, but the other three “were spoken to along with their parents.”
None were named at Tuesday’s meeting. Yilmaz said the circumstances meant police could only do so much.
“Those kids were aged between nine and 11. In Canada, we cannot charge anyone under the age of 12, regardless of what they do,” he said.
Asked about other incidents believed to involve the same children, Yilmaz added: “The same names keep coming.”
The town’s director of protective services, Adam McNab, said the risk remains that the same thing could happen again as the South Slave deals with what looks set to be an extreme fire season.
“It’s something that we need to be vigilant about,” said McNab, telling councillors that the town was examining the prospect of providing “some proactive education in the schools.”
He said an existing junior firesetters’ program, designed to offer a form of intervention when children start fires, “hasn’t been well-attended thus far” but would continue.
Fort Smith remains under a fire restriction, which limits the types of fire residents can have, but does not have a complete fire ban in place. Yellowknife is moving to a fire ban as of noon on Friday and some other communities enacted bans earlier.
“Right now, we’ll just leave it at a fire restriction,” said McNab, “so it’s no large fires – nothing outside of an approved fire pit at this point.”
“Be extremely cautious when you’re out doing your thing,” Councillor Leonard Tuckey said later in the same meeting, addressing his comments to Fort Smith residents.
“With the weekend coming up, use common sense. God gave us all a brain, it’s up to us to use it. So let’s keep our community in mind, whatever activities we’re involved with, especially activities that could be involving camping, ATVs, that kind of stuff.
“The conditions are primed for disasters right now and we see them all over the news. Let’s not make Fort Smith the headline.”