A downtown fire that destroyed business premises and the Belmont Hotel has been deemed suspicious, and the file was handed over to the RCMP for investigation said Jeff Beckwith, Prince Rupert Fire Chief, on May 11.
Beckwith said while he and Deputy Cheif Chad Cooper are trained in fire investigation, they did feel it was necessary to have a deeper review of the site completed.
“… because it was a large fire, we brought in the fire commissioner from Prince George. And they bring some tools with them that we don’t have here like detectors that can pull up hydrocarbons out of wood and things like that,” he said, adding the tools can also detect if accelerants such as gasoline have been used.
“But, at this point, we would determine that this fire is suspicious in nature, because of the location where it started, which isn’t near any sort of natural ignition points,” the chief said.
He said the fire has been ruled as “suspicious” which is different from “arson”.
An official arson designation can not be provided as “intent” needs to be evident— such as someone pouring gasoline and lighting it on fire, as opposed to a campfire being set for someone to stay warm.
“There’s a potential that it could be criminal in nature. So that’s where [the RCMP] will continue on with that investigation,” Beckwith said.
Const. Gabriel Gravel, media relations officer with the Prince Rupert RCMP detachment, said initially, the RCMP is not involved in 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 investigation into arson. So right now, at this stage, it is an ongoing investigation for arson.”
Gravel said they are still in the evidence-gathering stages and it is very early days in the investigation. More information will be provided as it comes available.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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