To catch an arsonist(s)
For 12 months, a string of suspicious fires has plagued Kamloops neighbourhoods from Westsyde to Valleyview.
When the blazes began worrying officials in April 2011, and for months afterward, investigators said they believed it was likely the fires were all related — the work of a single arsonist or a group of firebugs working together.
That is no longer the case.
“There’s probably three, maybe four different individuals or groups of individuals setting these fires,” Kamloops Fire Rescue chief fire prevention officer Dean Olstad told Kamloops This Week.
“We work with the RCMP and we track these incidents,” Olstad said.
“We work very closely with them in regard to evidence we find.”
Most of the 50-plus suspicious fires since last April have been relatively minor — mainly damage to sheds, garbage cans, fences or hedges.
But, some instances have been more serious.
Last month, a fire in a duplex on Clearwater Avenue in North Kamloops killed a family dog.
Police labelled it an arson and said the suspect went so far as to break into the home to set the blaze.
The ranging methods and targets of the fires have kept authorities on their toes.
“There’s a difficulty in linking them together because there’s no real calling card,” Olstad said.
“But, we keep a databank of all these incidents that we find suspicious and we share information with the RCMP.”
The Clearwater Avenue example stands out not just because of its severity, but also because of the result of the investigation that followed.
It culminated in an arrest — a youth, who cannot be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act — which has been a rarity for investigators looking in to the blazes.
“There have been arrests in different fires, but we think those have been sort of one-off incidents,” said Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned.
Police, Learned said, have taken the suspicious fires seriously — but, there’s no ongoing investigation.
“We review all the fires that have come in,” he said.
“It’s not like they’re out there following hot leads, but they are aware of all the files that have come in.”
Both Mounties and firefighters are preparing for potential problems posed by suspicious fires as the temperatures rise and the risk for devastating wildfires increases.
Learned said police have already held preliminary meetings dealing with what-ifs as fire season approaches and Olstad said Kamloops Fire Rescue crews will be on high alert heading into the hot months.
“For us, people going and intentionally lighting fires when it’s dry, that’s dangerous,” he said.
“People are out lighting fires with no reason for it and the chance of wildland fires is increasing.”
Anyone with information about any of the suspicious fires in the last 12 months can call police at 250-828-3000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
If you spot a fire, call 911 immediately.