Two Duncan fires ‘suspicious’

Fires that investigators are calling suspicious broke out in abandoned homes in Duncan on back-to-back nights last weekend.

The first fire was reported just before 10 p.m. Saturday in a home on Festubert Street.

The second started around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday in a house on Second Street.

Both structures have been empty since they were damaged in fires in February.

The Second Street home caught fire on Feb. 12, and the house on Festubert was struck on Feb. 20.

Neither of the February blazes were considered suspicious, but the situations are different this time.

"The fires have occurred just one night apart in the early evening hours which raises suspicions on its own," North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Krista Hobday said.

"Add that both residences have been abandoned for some time and the Hydro has been turned off leaves little doubt that the fires were intentional. Duncan’s fire investigator is looking into the cause of the fires and gathering evidence to support any hypotheses they may develop as to their origin."

Neighbours of the house on Festubert Street said they knew that "punks and transients" had been going in and out of the building, but hadn’t caught them in the act. The garage had been boarded up and a "no trespassing" sign erected, but that didn’t prevent people from accessing the main building. One neighbour spotted the flames and smoke when she was outside watering her plants.

The presence of asbestos in the structure is believed to be preventing its demolition. Since Saturday’s fire, it has been boarded up by the fire department, and the building’s manager has been asked to put a temporary fence around it.

The home on Second Street, meanwhile, was demolished as part of the efforts to extinguish Sunday’s fire.

"We tore it down," Duncan Fire Chief Mike McKinlay said. "We couldn’t get in there. It was beyond being safe. We brought in an excavator to take it down and put it out that way."

The police are asking people who live near abandoned buildings to keep their eyes open and report any suspicious activity.

"During the warm summer months these type of fires can get out of hand very quickly and possibly spread to an occupied home," Hobday said. Anyone with information about these or any other crimes should contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).