Kamloops fire chief says recent rash of suspicious blazes is worst in years

String of fires 'worrisome'

Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Ken Uzeloc says the string of fires set over the Easter long weekend is the largest concentration of suspicious blazes he’s seen in the city since he assumed his role about two years ago.

On Tuesday, Kamloops Mounties said officers were called to five fires in a span of about 48 hours over the Easter long weekend, responding to locations from Valleyview to North Kamloops.

“If these are deliberately being set, as it appears some of them are, then there’s a wilful desire to injure people,” Uzeloc said.

“I don’t want to see anybody, citizens or first responders, hurt because of this.”

Several weekend fires

First responders were called to a fire at about 1 a.m. on Saturday, March 30, at a home in the 800-block of Valhalla Drive. Police received multiple reports of an explosion caused by what appeared to be a molotov cocktail thrown at a building.

A couple of days before this incident, a North Shore resident awoke to find a fire on their deck — a blaze which was also apparently sparked by a molotov cocktail, according to Mounties.

Shortly after the Valhalla Drive fire, two more blazes were reported at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in Valleyview, including a small fire which started at outside an electrical room at a motel, and a 10 foot section of cedar shrubs on fire along another property.

KFR made quick work of a structure fire in the 400-block of Chilcotin Road on the Tk’emlups reserve at about 7 a.m. Saturday.

The latest fire took place early Monday morning at a residential complex in the 400-block of St. Paul Street. Police say a jerry can was located nearby.

“The biggest concern for me is that we've got what appears to be a rash of deliberately set fires, which are on the outside of homes,” Uzeloc said.

No smoke alarm for outdoor fires

Uzeloc said when fires start inside a home, a working smoke alarm will give early advance notice so people can get to safety — which isn't the case for fires which start outdoors.

“When fires are on the outside, especially in the early morning hours, they’re not readily visible to people. They don't set off smoke alarms until there's a huge amount of smoke in the house,” Uzeloc said.

“It makes it much more concerning for me that people aren't going to be alerted early — especially from the [fires] that were in residential communities — and be able to get alerted and get out safely with these fires starting on the outside.”

He said especially in Kamloops’ dry climate, any type of fire has the ability to quickly spread, and if it’s unchecked, it can move to adjacent homes and property.

“This happening on the outside of a home in the middle of the night when there's not a lot of people around, this has the potential to affect several homes and put a lot of people at risk,” Uzeloc said.

The fire chief said in situations like this, he looks to his “fantastic” partners at the Kamloops RCMP Detachment who take over fire investigations and have been successful getting charges laid for past incidents.

However, Uzeloc noted past situations have seemed a bit different, involving “different populations, going down alleyways, things like that, for some of them.”

“This is much more aggressive, much more deliberate. And it's just worrisome,” he said.

Kamloops RCMP released images from the Valhalla Drive and St. Paul Street fires in the hopes that people might come forward with more details related to the ongoing investigations.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to contact the Kamloops RCMP Detachment.

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