53 years later, an act of bravery in Fort Reliance is honoured

'My grandchildren were amazed,' says Celine Marlowe of Lutselk’e, N.W.T., who received an award Tuesday for saving four kids from a fire at age nine.

Celine Marlowe of Lutselk'e receives RCMP award for saving 4 kids from a fire at age 9

Celine Marlowe, now a teacher in Lutselk’e, N.W.T., receives the RCMP Commissioner's Commendation for Bravery for saving four other children from a fire in Fort Reliance when she was nine years old. (Lutselk'e RCMP)

Celine Marlowe of Lutselk’e, N.W.T., received an award Tuesday for act of bravery more than 50 years ago.

In 1961, nine-year-old Celine saved four other children from a fire in Fort Reliance.

  • Click the link on the left to hear Celine Marlowe speak with Northwind's Wanda McLeod.

Marlowe was awarded the RCMP Commissioner's Commendation for Bravery, the first time a civilian has ever been awarded the honour in the Northwest Territories. 

Garth Hampson, a young RCMP officer at the time, was posted in Fort Reliance at the time of the fire.

"I was awoken in my cabin and I heard these children yell out 'Fire! Fire!'" he said. "And when I went out the back of my cabin, the house was totally engulfed in flames."

He said the small brigade of local volunteer firefighters were powerless against the giant blaze but that didn't stop one young Dene girl.

"When I was talking to a group standing by, they mentioned that this girl had pulled out four kids from where a family lived inside."

Marlowe, who was babysitting at the time, says the fire started under the stove, and ran up the papered walls.

"After I got everybody out there was one more [child] who got back inside, so I had to go back inside through the smoke and flames. I had to go back and get him," she said. "He was underneath a bed, I pulled him out and told him 'If you don't come out with me, you are going to burn with me too,' so I pushed him out and he ran out with me."

Hampson now lives in Ottawa but says he had always wanted to honour Marlowe for saving the children that day.

During a visit to Lutselk'e in 2011 he ran into Marlowe, who is now a school teacher.

He said he couldn't pass up the opportunity and asked the RCMP Commissioner to give her the honour. He said having her actions recognized is "really important, especially to me."

Marlowe said her grandchildren were amazed.

"All my grandchildren are all grown up, and I told them about it, and they said, 'How did you do it, granny?'  And I said, 'I don't know,' but look at me now surrounded by all these kids in my family and at the school." 

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