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Crime Stoppers increases reward for tips about recent suspicious fires

Crime Stoppers increases reward for tips about recent suspicious fires

by Jaime Myslik

EVERTON - Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington is increasing its minimum reward in an effort to find those responsible for 13 suspicious fires in the area.

“The Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington board of directors recognizes the seriousness of suspicious fires in our community and the impact these incidents of the past few months could have on public safety,” said Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington program coordinator Sarah Bowers-Peter.

Speaking at a media event on Feb. 16 in front of the Everton mill, the sight of one of the suspicious fires, she continued, “With this in mind, the board has taken the unprecedented step of increasing the minimum reward amount from $50 to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible for [13] suspicious fires.”

The amount could be split between numerous tip providers with equal tip information.

The suspicious fires include:

- a house fire on Sept. 24 on 16th Line in Mapleton Township;

- house fire on Oct. 14 on 3rd Line in Guelph-Eramosa Township;

- house fire on Oct. 19 on 3rd Line in Guelph-Eramosa;

- house fire on Oct. 28 on Arkell Road in Puslinch Township;

- vehicle fire on Oct. 30 on 481 Townline Road in Puslinch;

- vehicle fire on Oct. 31 on Sideroad 10 in Puslinch;

- sawmill fire on Nov. 16 on 6th Line in Centre Wellington Township;

- cabin fire between Nov. 15 and 17 on Wellington Road 29 in Guelph-Eramosa;

- barn fire on Dec. 5 on Fife Road in Guelph;

- the Everton mill fire on Jan. 19 on Wellington Road 49 in Guelph-Eramosa;

- shop fire on Feb. 3 on Highway 7 in Guelph-Eramosa;

- barn/house fire on Feb. 3 on Township Road 3 in Guelph-Eramosa; and

- a hay bale fire on Feb. 15 on 3rd Line/32 Sideroad in the Town of Erin.

The campaign targeting suspicious fires will end on April 1.

Wellington County OPP Inspector Scott Lawson was not able to say specifically what may or may not tie the fires together.

“The fact that they’re all happening in this short span of time in this sort of southern part of our county ... is something that’s drawing attention certainly to the public, to us, to the fire service that (could) lend a prudent person to believe that there’s something happening that shouldn’t be along this sort of corridor,” he said.  

Guelph and Guelph-Eramosa Fire Chief John Osborne explained that even though the targeted buildings are abandoned, officials worry about the safety of first responders and the public.

“We have fire trucks, police cars, paramedics, all responding and they’re responding on our roads and that in itself can create havoc for some people and could possibly put not only the public but emergency workers at risk of getting in an accident,” Osborne said.

Lawson agreed.

“Despite the fact that these buildings have been vacant, that still puts enormous strain on our resources, so the safety of our communities, the safety of our ... first responders is most important and we don’t want to see anybody get injured while responding to a vacant (building) fire,” he said.

Lawson confirmed at least some of the fires have been deliberately set - and in some cases there has been more than one person involved.

“We aren’t at this point prepared to comment on linkages between all the fires,” he said.

“We are looking at all the trends, we are looking at times of day, we’re looking at certainly the nature of the evidence that we’re seeing at the scene.”

Lawson urged the public to come forward with any tips.

“Certainly in the late hours of the night, early hours of the morning, typically when we’ve been seeing these fires, any license plates, any suspicious vehicles, any activity, footprints in the snow, anything that may lead one to believe there might be something a little bit out of the ordinary, please give us a call or call Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington,” he said.

Lawson also expanded on the description of a vehicle seen fleeing the area during the Feb. 3 fire on Township Road 3 in Guelph-Eramosa.

“It was seen fleeing by one of our responding officers, we were there fairly quickly,” he said.

“It was a small compact car, so that is something that is definitely something we’re looking for and looking at.”

To secure vacant buildings, Osborne suggested property owners not only put plywood over all entrances, but also put up cameras.

Lawson said police have looked at footage from security cameras to try to gather more information.

Anyone with information about the fires can contact Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington at 1-800-222-TIPS or at Tip providers could receive a reward of up to $2,000.

There have been about five other suspicious fires in the Wellington County area over the last three months that are not included in the Crime Stoppers campaign.

February 24, 2017


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