Prince Rupert RCMP open arson investigation – Smithers Interior News

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A downtown fire that destroyed business premises and the Belmont Hotel has been deemed suspicious, and the case has been turned over to the RCMP for investigation, Prince Rupert Fire Chief Jeff Beckwith said May 11.

Beckwith said that although he and Deputy Chief Chad Cooper are trained in fire investigations, they felt there was a need for a more in-depth examination of the site.

“…because it was a big fire, we called in the fire marshal from Prince George. And they bring with them tools that we don’t have here, like detectors that can extract hydrocarbons from wood and things like that,” he said, adding that the tools can also detect whether accelerators such only gasoline were used.

“But, at this point, we would determine that this fire is suspicious in nature, due to where it started, which is not near any point of natural ignition,” the chief said.

He said the fire was deemed “suspicious”, which is different from “arson”.

An official arson designation cannot be provided as the ‘intent’ must be obvious – such as someone pouring gasoline and lighting it, as opposed to a campfire being lit for someone to stay warm.

“There is a potential that it could be criminal in nature. So there it is [the RCMP] will continue this investigation,” Beckwith said.

const. Gabriel Gravel, media relations officer at the Prince Rupert RCMP detachment, initially said the RCMP was not involved in the fires except for crowd control and assistance at the scene.

“On May 4, we received a call from [PRFR] saying that based on their initial investigation, it was suspicious… So we reopened the arson investigation. So right now, at this point, it’s an ongoing arson investigation.

Gravel said they were still in the evidence-gathering stage and the investigation was in the very early stages. More information will be provided as it becomes available.


KJ Millar | Multimedia editor and journalist
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