Centreville fires ‘flagged as possible arson’

by | Jan 6, 2024

RCMP and Fire Marshal’s Office investigate as two fires in two weeks destroy two buildings on the same property

The RCMP and Fire Marshal’s office are investigating the second of two structure fires over two weeks, which destroyed separate garages on a family property near Centreville.

George Armour said the fire department responded to overnight fires on their family property on Hartley Settlement Road, which levelled a business-size garage on Dec. 17 and a stand-alone two-car garage on Jan. 2.

Armour’s sisters Ellen, Monica and other family members, noting the timing of the blazes, consider the fires suspicious.

“In our hearts, we know it’s arson,” Armour said.

He noted both fires began in the early morning hours just over two weeks apart.

Centreville Fire Department Chief Ritchie Shaw said he deemed two blazes on the same property in such a short time as suspicious. While his department didn’t notify the Fire Marshal’s Office after the Dec. 17 blaze, he requested investigators following the Jan. 2 fire.

“I felt we had to do everything we could to find the cause,” he said.

Shaw said since neither the structures, nor contents, which included at least three vehicles, were insured, they didn’t initially call for an investigation. However, the chief added that the second fire raised concerns about potential arson.

Shaw said his department received the fire calls shortly before 5 a.m. on both occasions, with the Dec. 17 call coming in at 4:44 a.m. and 4:59 a.m. on Jan. 2.

He explained both fires began more than a half hour before the department received the calls. While fire crews responded quickly, both buildings were fully involved when they arrived, making it impossible to save either building.

Sgt. Dan Sharpe of the Western Valley Region RCMP said the Jan. 2 fire was “flagged as possible arson.”

Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed a garage on Hartley Settlement Road in Centreville on Jan. 2. It was the second fire at the same property in just over two weeks. (Submitted photo)

While acknowledging that arson was one of the harder crimes to investigate, he said the Fire Marshal’s investigators collected samples from the Jan. 2 blaze. Sharpe explained those samples could indicate the presence of an accelerant.

While the investigation could identify arson as the cause of the fire, Sharpe said it becomes more challenging to identify who was responsible, noting the blaze would destroy much of the evidence.

If it was arson, he added, it appears it was someone with a vendetta.

Armour said his late father used the large garage destroyed on Dec. 17 for his repair business. While his brother continued to use the building after his father’s death, he hasn’t worked out of it for a couple of years.

While both structures have power, Armour said he can’t imagine any fire dangers in either building.

“We didn’t store any flammables there,” he said.

Armour said by the time someone discovered the Dec. 17 blaze, it was already “a big glow” in the early-morning sky.

By 5 a.m., he said, the building was “completely engulfed in flames,”

Armour said a neighbour spotted the Jan. 2 fire when he awoke early in the morning.

Like the first blaze, the firefighters arrived to find the building fully involved.

Armour said the fires destroyed several vehicles, including a vintage Monte Carlo his brother hoped to restore.

Since the vehicles weren’t used on the road, he explained, they weren’t insured.

Sharpe said the RCMP is awaiting the results of tests from the samples collected by the Fire Marshal’s Office. He said the fire remains under investigation.

A suspicious blaze on Jan. 2 near Centreville destroyed a garage and vehicles. (Submitted photo)

A blaze on Jan. 2 near Centreville destroyed a two-car garage, its contents including multiple vehicles. (Submitted photo)

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