Arsonist sentenced to house arrest for starting wildfires in Kamloops area | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Arsonist sentenced to house arrest for starting wildfires in Kamloops area

A convicted arsonist will spend three months on house arrest after she lit multiple fires in the forest in the Kamloops area.

They didn't grow to be large wildfires, but they posed a risk to rural properties and people in that area if they grew out of control, provincial court judge Roy Dickey said today, Sept. 26, in Kamloops court during a sentencing hearing.

Angela Elise Cornish, 42, was caught with multiple butane tanks, lighters, hand sanitizer and fire starter as she drove away from fires she started last spring.

She'll now spend three months on house arrest and a following three months with a curfew.

Cornish pleaded guilty to four counts of arson in January, and she's been on strict bail conditions for over a year, restricting her from traveling into forests near Kamloops.

The investigation started in the Westwold area at the end of April 2022, where a resident saw smoke in the hills and a suspicious truck leaving the scene. The wildfires were tackled quickly and didn't spread widely, but the blazes in the Westwold and Monte Lake areas came on the heels of the devastating 2021 wildfire season and the White Rock Lake wildfire.

Although the investigation started near Westwold, she didn't plead guilty to those fires. There were "serious evidentiary hurdles" as police tried to confirm it was, in fact, Cornish who started those fires, according to Crown prosecutor Nadia Farinelli.

Police followed her in May as she into rural areas near Lac le Jeune and Connolly Lake areas, where she was setting trees on fire before she was caught with fire-starting material in the truck.

BC Wildfire Service spent around $15,000 to douse the fires Cornish pleaded guilty to starting, which it plans to recover from her.

At the time of the fires, Cornish was dealing with withdrawal from her medication dexedrine, according to her lawyer Lana Walker.

The drug is an amphetamine typically used for ADHD, but that's not why she used it. The court heard that she started using it as a stimulant while working night shifts as a nurse, noting that she's currently unemployed and not practicing.

Walker said she is a "lover of animals" and has a penchant for campfires, which she used to "reconnect with nature" while dealing with withdrawals.

"The intention was not to start large, damaging fires. It was for personal healing and growth," Walker told the court.

Dickey expressed concerns with the risk associated with arson in a forest. Although the arsons weren't intended to harm people or damage private property, they had the risk of spreading into massive wildfires.

During an earlier September hearing, lawyers briefed Dickey on how they came up with a proposed six-month conditional sentence, which included some discussion about a previous court file that was sealed from the public. Cornish didn't want to consent to that file being read aloud to the court, while Dickey said he should be able to see it in order to understand why a sentence outside of jail should be appropriate.

Dickey got a copy of that file and postponed his decision until today but its contents were not read aloud to the court.

She was the victim of a serious crime roughly two years before she lit the fires. While Dickey did not explain what happened, he said it played a role in her behaviour when she lit the fires.

Although DIckey said the sentence was relatively low for the offence, he agreed with the joint submission proposed by Walker and Farinelli.

"(It) can only be described as an offence that put the community at risk of catastrophic consequences," Dickey said, adding that it was related to her "trauma" from the previous crime.

Dickey postponed his sentence once in June and again briefly in September before lawyers returned today for his final decision.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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