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Ontario: Police investigate another suspicious fire

Police are investigating another suspicious fire set in a new home under construction -- the third in less than two months.
Police investigate another suspicious fire

STEPHANIE MACLELLAN

GUELPH (Aug 5, 2006)

Police are investigating another suspicious fire set in a new home under construction -- the third in less than two months.

"Certainly we're frustrated in the fact that this is going on," said Staff Sergeant Jeff DeRuyter of the Guelph Police Service. "But the homeowners and the builders and the people who are going to be moving in to these homes are probably more frustrated than we are."

The latest fire was set in the second floor of a home on an unnamed court near the intersection of Elmira and Willow roads about 1 a.m. Thursday.

The home is part of Armel Corporation's Chilico subdivision, near the old Mitchell farmhouse. It was "well under construction," DeRuyter said.

Police were alerted to the fire by a phone call from someone in the area. The fire department was able to extinguish the fire quickly, and the damage was "relatively minor," he said -- mostly the floor and some joists and studs in a corner of an upstairs room.

Police are investigating the fire as suspicious.

"There doesn't appear to be any reason why the fire should have started, other than the fact that it was intentionally set," DeRuyter said.

Tim Blevins, president of Reid's Heritage Homes, the company that built the home, said the fire caused $8,000 to $10,000 in damage.

Reid's has built about 50 homes there in the past couple of years, and is currently completing half a dozen larger homes of 2,500 to 3,000 square feet.

Less than three weeks ago, a fire in a new townhome near Arkell Road caused $80,000 damage. The blaze apparently burnt itself out overnight before anyone noticed it.

In late June, a blaze at 75 Summit Ridge, in view of the old Eastview Road landfill site, caused about $200,000 damage. In January, a fire at an unfinished home on Dawn Avenue caused $5,000 damage.

The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for those three fires through messages sent to local media. That hasn't happened yet in Thursday's fire, and there was no graffiti at the scene pointing to the group known for setting fires throughout North America to promote environmental messages, DeRuyter said.

It's not clear yet whether this fire is linked to the other arsons under investigation, he said, but police are looking at that possibility.

"We don't have anything per se to say it is," he said. "However, given the fact it's a house under construction, and the time frame, we're certainly investigating whether or not it is linked. We're not ruling it out."

Police are asking people who live in and around new developments to keep an eye out for suspicious people or vehicles in their neighbourhood.

"People who live in areas of new construction (should) just be aware of that which is happening out and about them, and especially if they're coming and going, especially during the night hours, be aware of persons or vehicles that are out and about," DeRuyter said. "And if there are any concerns, please pass that information on to us."

 smaclellan@guelphmercury.com