'Incendiary' fires put out in St. Paul
A 34-year-old man could be facing a charge of arson, following a structure fire in St. Paul on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a well-known house,” said Const. John Spaans of the location at 4801 50th Street. The owner often allows transient people to stay there or warm up, and RCMP were often called to respond to disturbances there, he said.
He notes the residence is likely “one of the oldest houses in St. Paul, if not the oldest house,” but that it may now be condemned. “Structurally, it might not be sound any more.”
At 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, emergency crews responded to the fire where they found a holiday trailer, a car port and a neighbouring garage engulfed in flames, according to an RCMP press release. The trailer appears to have caught on fire, spreading to the car port, where a number of people had been sitting, said Spaans. The people vacated the car port without harm, but a neighbour’s garage did catch flames. Police and firefighters entered the main house, where they had to carry out two older occupants, both with limited mobility, before the fire spread to that residence, according to St. Paul Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich.
“We could have had a very different outcome for the two occupants in the home, if not for the quick response of firefighters and the police,” Kotowich said, noting one of the occupants was almost entirely immobile. The two people were not seriously injured, but were taken to hospital as a precaution and released in an hour, according to Spaans.
While crews were on scene, a witness alerted the RCMP to a suspect seen running from the fire. Police quickly located the 34-year-old Kehewin man and took him into custody without incident. He has since been released, but charges are pending of arson with disregard for human life. “A motive is not known at this time,” according to the RCMP press release.
The incident marked St. Paul’s third structure fire in four days, said Kotowich, noting that all three fires have been deemed “incendiary” in nature, indicating they were intentionally lit. A fire on Wednesday, Oct. 17, reduced an unoccupied residence on 51st Avenue, west of St. Paul’s fire hall, to rubble. Firefighters responded to the fire at 8 p.m., and found the structure “fully involved” in flames, and managed to put it out. The property was demolished the next day, but on the following Friday morning at the same location, a garage was reported on fire. Fire crews responded to the fire on 5:30 a.m., spending an hour and a half on the scene to deal with the issue.
“It’s been busy,” Kotowich said of the week.
The investigation into the Oct. 17 and 19 fires is ongoing, according to RCMP. “We’re trying to determine if these fires are related,” said Spaans, adding it was “suspicious” to see three human-started fires within a week. However, he noted, “To date, we have nothing to suggest that they are.”
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