Two suspicious fires near Keremeos last week has fire officials and the RCMP urging the public to call in anything out of the normal.
Cpl. Brian Evans of the Keremeos RCMP detachment said although he is still investigating he believes both the small fires on Upper Bench Road were linked. At this point the police have not identified a suspect.
“I mean obviously they were very close to each other. They are similar in nature, stacks of items that have been there that have caught on fire with no evident explanation. Do i have any evidence to directly relate them? No, not at his point. But, however with the proximity and timing there’s a good chance they are related,” he said. “We don’t want to see this escalate and the fear is the smaller fires will grow, get out of hand, and catch something more substantial on fire.”
The first fire occurred Wed., July 4 in the morning on Upper Bench Road on a ranch property when a pile of fence posts caught fire.
The small fire created a lot of smoke, which was visible in Keremeos, alarming residents.
Jordy Bosscha, fire chief for the Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department said a crew of 11 spent about 90 minutes putting out the fire.
Bosscha said fence posts and other pieces of wood were set on fire by someone other than the ranch owner.
“He used these when needed. I’m not sure who set the fire, whether it was campers that were there,” explained Bosscha. “It’s very suspicious.”
The next fire on Fri., July 6 started at about 2 p.m. on a property in the 2600 block of Upper Bench Road when a stack of apple bins caught fire near the roadway.
Bosscha said two trucks and nine firefighters were needed to put out the fire.
“The road had to be closed as people kept driving too close to the trucks. A second 4-metre by 4m grass fire was noticed about 200’ away in the neighbouring orchard,” he told the Review.
Bosscha urged people in the area to be vigilant if they saw anything suspicious.
“Report suspicious activities, take note of people, clothes they’re wearing, descriptions of vehicles,” he said. “Please be careful if trying to extinguish a fire so any evidence does not get destroyed. Stay away from the area where the fire started and take pictures if safe to do so. Saving lives in the number one priority, everything else is material and can be replaced.”
This is the third suspicious fire in the area in just under a month.
The RCMP are still investigating a house fire near the corner of 4th Street and 11th Avenue in Keremeos that broke out on June 14. Evans said the two recent smaller fires are not related to the house fire.
“We have no reason to believe they are linked. We’re still investigating the house fire and working on laying charges,” he said.