Arson investigators are now sifting through a gutted Fort Garry duplex home after flames caused $500,000 in damage early Friday morning.
The house at Hudson Street and Howard Avenue was fully engulfed in flames by the time crews arrived at 1 a.m.
One neighbour said the owner of both units has been known for his hoarding tendencies and while officials would not confirm this, several pieces of debris and garbage were thrown all over the lawn by the firefighters.
“Crews were hampered by the large amount of material and debris in the house – it prevented us from doing an interior attack,” Fire Platoon Chief Doug Martin told 680 CJOB.
“Until the roof is breached by flames, you can’t get access to it. It’s impossible – there’s stuff in there packed right to the ceiling,”
No one was home at the time. Officials say the blaze started in a wood pile by the home, which rapidly spread to the garage and house. There are reports someone was seen running in the back lane around the time the fire ignited.
Hydro crews also assisted after a downed line began sparking at the side of the home.
“With the water we were using at the back, it would hit the puddles and spark and that sort of thing, so it was a dangerous situation back there,” Martin said.
Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service along with Winnipeg Police have been trying to warn residents about fire prevention as part of Arson Awareness week.
The city usually experiences a hike in suspicious fires during the first week of May as the temperatures rises.
“There has been some spikes, but the numbers are very much in line with numbers in the past” said Const. Jason Michalyshen.
“Clearly (we’re) not trying to justify it in anyway – it’s concerning”
Michalyshen adds arrests have been made and at least one youngster has been referred to the ‘Youth Fire Stop’ program.
The program consist of interviews and education for young fire setters. Public Education Officers try and work with kids and their families to help ensure that fire setting stops.
“What’s involved is an opportunity. That’s what we are trying to remove. That’s what we are trying to stay on top of and make the community aware of,” Assistant Fire Chief Mark Reshaur tells 680 CJOB.
Reshaur and other fire officials have gone door-to-door asking homeowners to remove material that flammable from their back lane.
“There’s a lot more rubbish on the corner, a lot more stuffing sitting waiting for pickup, there’s a lot more bulk waste and it makes it an attractive target at times,” Reshaur said.
Steps To Reduce Arson Risk
- Reporting discarded furniture or other large garbage items to 311.
- Avoid placing bins, garbage or other combustible items against the exterior of your home, garage, shed or fence. These are a ready supply of fuel for an arsonist.
- Placing your new garbage / recycling containers out in the morning on the day of pickup (before 7:00 A.M. but not the night before). Secure them in a safe place on your property as soon as possible after collection.
- Cleaning up overgrown shrubs and trees. They also can be a source of fuel for an arsonist.
- Not leaving flammable liquids in the open. (Ensure proper storage of flammable material, i.e.:gas cans, propane tanks).
- Ensuring that your house, garage and shed are well secured and that exterior lighting be maintained, i.e.motion sensor lights.
- Removing abandoned vehicles.
- Organizing or participating in the Citizens on Patrol Program or Neighborhood Watch Programs.
- Speaking with your neighbors and encourage each other to contact police if anything suspicious is observed.