Police still searching for arsonist who started at least 29 Okanagan fires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Police still searching for arsonist who started at least 29 Okanagan fires

FILE PHOTO - The fire on Nighthawk Road destroyed eight homes in 2017.

As fire season gets underway once again, it's likely a good time to remind everyone police still think a serial arsonist — possibly responsible for as many as 29 fires in the Okanagan — remains at large.

Among them was the biggest fire in Lake Country's history which started July 15, 2017, when eight homes were destroyed. Police later said that arson may have been connected to dozens of others in the Okanagan Valley between July 7, 2014  and Sept. 1, 2017.

The investigation is still active and ongoing, said Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey, media spokesperson with the RCMP Southeast District.

“The RCMP Southeast District General Investigation Section has assumed conduct over the criminal arson case. Dedicated investigators, with specialized skills have been assigned to the investigation which continues to progress. These investigators are also being called upon to examine other suspected arson cases across the B.C. southern interior,” he said via email.

Lake Country Mayor James Baker remembered the challenges both Lake Country firefighters and B.C. Wildfire crews faced when battling the blaze that caused the evacuation of 331 homes.

“We’ve been working hard on the rural-urban interface so wildfires don’t get the same expanse that they had… the difficulty with (Nighthawk Road) was (the fire was) at the bottom of a hill and when the wind blows uphill in the daytime, it just zipped up the hill,” Baker said. Strong winds fueled the fire uphill that day, right into Okanagan Centre homes. 

“No one was ever found.... It’s not just a cigarette butt thrown out,” he said, adding the arsonist was using some kind of firestarter.

The 29 fires were set in the communities of Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, Summerland and Lake Country and took place between July 7, 2014 and September 1, 2017.

“It’s frustrating but we can only attempt to keep people aware and keep (fuel) from building up around their places,” Baker said, adding that residents can use FireSmart practices to help prevent wildfires from impacting their homes.

READ MORE: RCMP seek arsonist who set as many as 29 wildfires from Lake Country to Osoyoos

The 29 wildfires believed to be connected are:

  • July 7, 2014, K50209, Naramata
  • July 7, 2014, White Lake Rd, Penticton
  • July 9, 2014, Richter Pass, Osoyoos
  • July 15, 2014, Mt. Kobau, Oliver
  • July 15, 2014, Apex Rd, Penticton
  • July 17, 2014, Reservoir Rd / Landfill Rd, Penticton
  • July 22, 2014, White Lake Rd, Okanagan Falls
  • August 11, 2014, Chute Lake Rd, Naramata
  • August 11, 2014, Green Mountain Rd, Penticton
  • August 13, 2014, White Lake Rd, Penticton
  • August 19, 2014, North Naramata Rd, Naramata
  • September 15, 2014, Green Mountain Rd, Penticton
  • July 2, 2015, Canyon View Rd, Summerland
  • August 7, 2015, Pampas Grass Way, Oliver
  • August 8, 2015, Spiller Rd, Penticton
  • August 11, 2015, Commonage Rd, Lake Country
  • August 11, 2015, Beaver Lake Rd, Lake Country
  • August 12, 2015, Gulch Rd, Naramata
  • August 14, 2015, White Lake Rd, Penticton
  • April 9, 2016, Fairview-Cawston Rd, Cawston
  • August 17, 2016, Commonage Rd, Lake Country
  • August 17, 2016, Oyama Rd, Lake Country
  • July 3, 2017, Pixie Beach, Lake Country
  • July 15, 2017, Okanagan Centre Rd W, Lake Country
  • September 1, 2017, Westhills Rd, Penticton
  • September 1, 2017, Old Princeton Hwy, Summerland

READ MORE: Okanagan Centre fire was arson: RCMP

The district is working towards mitigating wildfire risk by removing trees and brushes around district land and encouraging residents to mitigate fuel on their own properties.

Anyone with any information regarding this matter is asked to contact the dedicated RCMP tip line at 250-707-8025.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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