Police release few details as criminal investigation into Saturday’s blaze announced
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A massive blaze that tore apart a south-side community has turned into a major criminal investigation after fire officials determined it was deliberately set.
Police Chief Mike Boyd said investigators are now convinced that arson is to blame for the fire in MacEwan that caused no injuries but left at least 100 people homeless.
“This is the city’s largest residential fire in history and I can assure everyone in this community that no stone will be left unturned,” he said. “We will be making every effort with our community to find out who is responsible for this wrongdoing.”
The early Saturday morning blaze levelled 18 townhouses and damaged 76 others, causing at least $20 million in damages.
Early reports indicate that the fire started in a condo complex that was under construction before spreading to neighbouring homes, but police were tight-lipped on further details yesterday.
Boyd would not comment on the possible use of accelerants to ignite the blaze, or if eyewitness reports of hearing loud explosions or sounds of firecrackers before the fire broke out indicated anything of value to investigators.
Instead, he’s asking anyone with information to contact police, no matter how trivial the information may seem.
“Leave it up to us to judge the value of this information,” he added. “It might mean that someone saw something, but not necessarily because it’s suspicious.”
Fire Chief Randy Wolsey will also be sending fire safety code inspectors to the dozens of multi-resident construction sites around the city, but he stressed that the developer of the condo site where the blaze originated is not to blame.
Officials will tour similar construction sites to ensure that there are no gaps in their fire plans while increased police patrols will begin immediately.
“We’re going to take a proactive role in the fire service because of this fire,” Wolsey said.
Mayor Stephen Mandel said he’s amazed to think that anybody would deliberately cause so much destruction, and his thoughts are with the families that have lost everything because of a suspected arsonist.
“This is a heinous crime against a community,” he said.
Police, fire department seeking info