January 16, 2014 - 11:13 AM
KAMLOOPS — A Westmount home neighbours consider a blight on the community will likely be a complete write-off following a suspicious fire early Thursday morning.
Fire Captain Sheldon Guertin says crews were called to a fire at 1505 Collingwood Dr. around 4:45 a.m., less than 24 hours after a do not occupy order was put on the house.
Crews worked for several hours but were unable to enter the house because of concern over the structure. Guertin and other investigators are now waiting for the smoke to clear and water to drain before they take a closer look at the full extent of the damage, but he says there's a good chance the house will be a write-off.
Mike McLean lives across the street and says people were being told to leave the house yesterday. He was woken at 5 a.m. today by police asking if they had seen anything suspicious. The house has been a hotspot of problems, he says, noting the property has housed a grow op, squatters and been the likely cause of the increase in petty crime in the area as well.
“It's been a constant problem over there for years,” McLean says, “I wish it would've burned to the ground."
Though McLean is suspicious of the fire and is happy to see the house go because of what it had become, he says the house had a historical value in the area.
“They just kicked everybody out yesterday and today it went up in flames so who knows what happened there,” he says. “It's a shame because it's the original farmhouse in this whole area too.”
A statement from Kamloops RCMP supports McLeans' observations of the house. Sgt. Grant Learned says police have had regular calls from area neighbours and residents concerned bout the ongoing activities occurring at the address. He says the department has been actively checking people coming and going from the property and noted that many were known to be active in the street drug subculture.
As well, Learned says officers take the time to check out the condition of such homes when called and he says in the case of the Collingwood Drive property, it's eroded from being a safety concern to an obvious, health and safety hazard.
"After these observation were brought to the attention of the building safety inspectors at the City of Kamloops and were acted on promptly," Learned says, adding the house was condemned yesterday. Electrical power and water were turned off.
Other safety issues police observed include abnormal and uncertified electrical wiring, likely because of a previous grow-op in the house.
The investigation into the fire continues.
The property was the scene of an alleged false call to RCMP about armed men entering the house at the end of October. At the time police said the house is known to police and is known for drug activity.
The property is quite large and there was never any risk of having the fire spread to other nearby homes, according to Guertin, nor is it believed any people or pets were in the house at the time of the fire.
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- This story was updated at 3:23 p.m. Jan. 16, 2014 to include information from a news release from the Kamloops RCMP.
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