Canada's north has always held a special place in Garth Hampson's heart. The RCMP posted him to the Northwest Territories early in his career.

There's one event from his time in the tiny community of Fort Reliance that has always stuck with him —
an intense fire in a home on New Year's Day in 1960 and the remarkable story of bravery that followed.

"When the fire happened, it was sort of a lost cause immediately. We noticed the place was totally engulfed," recalled Hampson.

He assumed the worst, but quickly learned of some remarkable lifesaving heroics.

"When I was investigating it, I found that a 9-year-old girl had saved four children - four small children - from the fire. She had pulled them out from under the blankets."

They all survived. Hampson always wanted to commend the Dene girl, but he didn't know how to find her.

Celine Natoway-Marlowe and Garth Hampson

In 2011 Celine Natoway-Marlowe and Garth Hampson crossed paths again in the northern community of Lutselk'e. (CBC)

He returned to the Northwest Territories in the summer of 2011. And had a chance encounter on a visit to the community of Lutselk'e.

"I just happened to be showing the pictures of my time 50-some years before," Hampson explained. "My son asked if there had been a girl that had saved four children. And the person that he was talking to - just standing beside the 45-gallon drum - was Celine Natoway-Marlowe."

Hampson saw it as his chance to finally honour Celine Marlowe.

When he got back to Ottawa he proposed that the RCMP honour her with the commissioner's commendation for bravery. The commissioner agreed.

"What are the chances? And that's really why I persevered with having something done about her act. And here 54 years later, she's going to be recognized."

Hampson's leaving for the Northwest Territories this week. He'll be there for a special ceremony for Marlowe's commendation on January 14th.