RCMP say officers won’t enter Fort McMurray homes looking for guns

A police officer looks over a fire-damged building in the Abasands neighbourhood in Fort McMurray, Alta., Monday, May 9. The Canadian Press

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – RCMP have seized some guns following the fire in Fort McMurray, but won’t be a conducting a mass seizure of firearms like they did after the flood in southern Alberta.

Sgt. John Spaans said Tuesday that officers have taken one or two guns found in public places, but are not going into homes looking for more.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: 1 week after mass exodus of 80K people, fire grows to 229K hectares

He said he’s not sure if the decision had anything to do with what happened in High River during the floods.

“That’s a decision that came through our unified command. I don’t know the rationale.”

Flood water forced thousands of people from their homes in High River in June 2013. As Mounties searched for people who were stranded in the town, they kicked in doors and took firearms.

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READ MORE: Class action lawsuit launched against High River RCMP over gun seizures

The seizures angered residents and fostered mistrust of the national police force.

The force’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission later found the RCMP had legal authority to forcibly enter evacuated homes and seize unsecured firearms in plain view. But it said officers exceeded their authority by taking some guns that were properly secured.

READ MORE: Watchdog raps Mountie gun seizures in High River flood

About 300 RCMP from Alberta and other provinces are in Fort McMurray and recently finished a door-to-door canvass of the community, said Spaans.

They did not force their way into homes, he said, and only offered help to people who didn’t evacuate with the 80,000 other residents ordered out last week when a massive wildfire spread through the city. About 2,400 buildings were burned.

Firefighters have gone into some houses, Spaans added.

“In those cases, the RCMP have stayed outside.”

Mounties have assisted some residents who needed help evacuating, he said. Officers have also found people who are refusing to leave, but he wouldn’t reveal how many.

Police don’t have the authority to remove them unless there they pose a threat to public safety, he said.

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Spaans said he expects the large presence of officers will remain “for months to come” in order to prevent property crime and help re-establish the community.

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