KELOWNA - Charges were laid this week against a man police believed to have set as many as five fires in Kelowna in less than two weeks — but at least a dozen more suspicious fires this year are yet to be solved.
There's nothing to suggest the homeless man being held in custody on one charge of arson is connected in any way to other outstanding files, but arson remains a big problem in the Central Okanagan. So far this year, arsonists have caused millions of dollars in damage.
In an interview earlier this year, Kelowna RCMP lead arson investigator Const. Kevin Hamilton acknowledged that catching arsonists can be difficult, but says they tend to share similar traits. It usually comes down to either potential financial gain or simple excitement of the chaos they cause.
We mapped out suspicious fires from the year for greater context. Except where noted, there have been no arrests in the following cases and they remain active and under investigation.
The first suspicious fire of the year was started at a childrens playground at Beasley Park in Lake Country on Feb. 22. Only the frame of a toddlers swing was left intact and a witness saw two people running from a small fire shortly after 9 p.m.
A little more than a month later on March 25 a home in West Kelowna was set on fire, according to RCMP. It happened in the 1100 block of Peak Point Drive around 2 a.m.
A week later on April 1 fire crews responded to another house fire in the 900 block of Stockwell Avenue at around 7 a.m. The fire was considered suspicious and a few days later RCMP announced that a body had been found inside.
In the early morning hours of May 6, at around 1:55 a.m., the front door of a business on Banks Road was smashed and flames were seen coming from inside. Two other businesses were also damaged.
June was a quiet month but one of the biggest fires in the area broke out in Okanagan Centre on July 15, destroying eight homes. Hundreds of people had to be evacuated and It took fire crews three days to contain the blaze at 50 hectares. Evacuation orders were finally lifted July 19.
“We have firmly concluded that this fire was intentionally set,” Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said at the time. “We pinpointed the place of origin… that’s information we don’t divulge.”
The Kelowna Fire Department responded to two suspicious fires the night of July 17 and morning of July 18. The first started at approximately 11 p.m. when firefighters responded to a bush and tree fire just below 1701 Thayer Ct. in Kelowna.
Platoon Capt. Steve Roshinsky said crews were able to stop the blaze before it could climb up the hill to the apartment building above and cause any significant damage.
The second floor of a duplex in the 500 block of Milex Ct. was next and a fire started there around 4 a.m. and although not officially considered suspicious, police were investigating.
Two weeks later on July 30, a suspicious fire started on Knox Mountain around 2 p.m. RCMP are still investigating the "man-made" fire they say was intentionally set.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says an unknown person was observed walking away from the scene.
“Although no structures were damaged as a result of the fire, it certainly posed an immediate risk to area residents. The immediate response from Kelowna Fire Dept. B.C. Wildfire Services and the Kelowna RCMP mitigated the possibilities of the fire spreading and the endangerment of the residences in the area. A variety of descriptions of possible suspects were given to police, and at this time the investigation is ongoing."
Earlier that same day, shortly after noon, Kelowna RCMP arrested a 21-year-old man who was allegedly walking along Highway 97 with a blow torch lighting landscaped sidewalks on fire.
One month after that, on Aug. 30, a small fire started in a gully near The Lakes subdivision around 9:15 p.m.
Cpl. Tania Carroll says the scene examination has been completed and it’s believed to be human caused.
“We’re currently unable to determine the exact causal factors,” she said in a release. “Investigators are looking at information compiled from previous fire incidents in order to determine whether this most recent fire is associated to previous incidents in any way.”
On Sept. 14 a stack of wooden pallets was set on fire by a man police would later say went on to light four more over the next week. Five people, including a child, were forced from their Gordon Drive home.
Later that same night a second suspicious fire started in the West Kelowna neighbourhood of Glenrosa. Residents near Pleasantview Road used hoses and buckets to contain the small grass fire until crews arrived.
Four days later on Sept. 18 four cars were set on fire on another West Kelowna property. This time it was in a forested area on Gates Road around 12:30 p.m.
If you have any information about any of these fires, contact the RCMP at 250-762 3300 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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