Terrace RCMP say they won’t be investigating an Aug. 20 fire that destroyed what the Kitsumkalum First Nation described as a camp containing drug dealers and individuals targeting young women.
The fire broke out at the camp on Kitsumkalum reserve lands beside the West Kalum Forest Service Road at 9:05 p.m. Aug. 20 after the First Nation published an eviction notice on social media, saying the RCMP had so far declined to help clear out its occupants.
The Terrace fire department responded to what the deputy fire chief called a major structural fire near the First Nation’s quarry.
Dave Jephson said it took eight firefighters and two trucks three hours to contain the blaze.
“Even as the crew was leaving [the fire station] they saw smoke rising up and knew it was a major fire,” said Jephson and added that by the time they reached the ramshackle structures, the whole place was burnt to the ground.
No one was present and there were no reported injuries, he added.
The Kitsumkalum band council’s eviction notice was posted Aug. 19, one day before the fire. It said it had never granted permission for a camp on its reserve land.
The Kitsumkalum band council, along with the First Nation’s economic development arm, said the Terrace RCMP were notified about the activities on the location numerous times since 2020. The band described the group of people living there as “violent individuals” who also targeted and threatened the safety of young women in their community.
RCMP did not take any action citing “there is not much they (police) can do but keep the peace,” the notice indicated.
“These are dangerous violent individuals and the Kitsumkalum band council is trying to deal with it, but without enforcement to help carry out our requests, we ask all community members to stay alert, keep windows and doors locked at night and when not at home,” the band added.
In a separate release, the Terrace RCMP told The Terrace Standard that while the fire was not reported to them, officers were aware of what happened via social media.
“RCMP were not called to assist at the time of this particular fire and are not aware of any information or evidence that would change their involvement at this time,” said Terrace RCMP spokesperson Kelly Cates.
She did say RCMP knew of the encampment referred to as “Larryville,” an apparent reference to a person believed to be a prominent occupant and that officers had been at the location various times, with the problem growing over time.
In the days leading up to the fire, Cates said the RCMP had been in contact with Don Roberts, Kitsumkalum chief councillor, about how they could support the First Nation once it acted on its eviction notice.
“Police advised that they would be available to attend the area and keep the peace when the band was ready to move forward with the eviction. However, the site caught fire before any eviction took place,” said Cates.