Explosive situation defused
Kids found with gas cans

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Sep 03/99) - A boy, approximately five years old, was spotted carrying a jerrycan containing gasoline onto a lot full of trees in Fort Simpson late Friday afternoon.

Before the RCMP arrived, the boy's mother happened to pass by in a car and stopped immediately, according to an eye-witness. He said she questioned her son, who told her he also had matches.

The police responded along with social services to the 99 Avenue location behind St. David's Church. Two other boys, roughly the same age, who were also seen among the trees, fled before the authorities arrived.

A search of the scene turned up four jerrycans full of gas and a bottle of starter fluid. Two of the jerrycans were found to belong to a resident in the area.

The investigating officer was not available for comment on Tuesday and the RCMP had no further information on the matter.

The fire department was also called to assess the gasoline-soaked ground. Fire Capt. Roger Pilling said he was shocked to find out it was young children who were responsible.

"I was a little startled at their age," he said. "Of course, my son is the same age, so that's when it kind of scares a guy a little bit -- to think what they were doing and what they could have done to themselves. It could have been pretty ugly in the bush, the fumes had built up in there."

Five concerned residents spent Saturday morning and afternoon clearing many trees and branches from the lot to create greater visibility. They also disposed of numerous bottles of alcohol, some still containing liquor, laying on the ground.

"I just felt it would be irresponsible not to do something," said volunteer Stephen Rowan. "As an adult in the community, this had to be done for the sake of the children."

Pilling said the youngsters will be introduced to the Juvenile Fire-setters Intervention Program, but only with their parents' consent as it is a voluntary program. It involves interviewing the parents and children separately, assigning the children age-appropriate homework and assessing their tendencies. Usually, with children so young curiosity is a major factor, but if a child is found to be troubled, help from social services will be recommended, according to Pilling.

"It helps as a guide to what you should recommend, further help or if it's just a curiosity thing. Maybe through education you can nip it in the bud," he said.