Tag Archives: Arson

Alleged Arsonist Arrested after 3 Fires at Masonic Lodges in Metro Vancouver Area

Vancouver police arrested a 42-year-old man suspected of arson in three fires at Masonic lodges in Metro Vancouver on Tuesday morning.

The arrest came after an off-duty police officer driving past the Masonic temple near Rupert Street and East 29th Avenue in Vancouver noticed a man walking away from the building as it burned, according to Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Const. Tania Visintin.

Video taken by a bystander shows flames licking at an entrance to the temple as a man carries a red jerrycan to the trunk of a black van. He is then confronted by the off-duty officer.

The man managed to get away but was then arrested just before 10 a.m. in Burnaby near North Fraser Way and Marine Way, about a 20-minute drive from the location of the last of the fires, according to police.

“He did a great job in stopping and speaking to this suspect,” Visintin told reporters during a news conference, referring to the off-duty officer.

“He attempted to take the suspect into custody, a fight ensued, and the suspect was able to get away.”

North Vancouver fire crews responded to a fire near Lonsdale Avenue and 12th Street on Tuesday morning, one of three fires at Masonic lodges in the metro Vancouver area. Police later said they had arrested a 42-year-old man in connection with the fire. (Submitted by Carol Reimer)

The Vancouver fire followed two other blazes that were reported earlier in the morning at Masonic lodges in North Vancouver. Police say no one was injured during the fires or the arrest, and are recommending arson charges.

Investigators have released few details about the suspect or possible motives, except to say that he has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson.

“We don’t have answers as to the motive,” North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries said. “Those are questions that we want answers to as well.”

Visintin said she was not aware of any specific threats to Masonic organizations before Tuesday’s fires.

Fires began early Tuesday morning

North Vancouver RCMP received reports of the first fire at the Lynn Valley lodge just before 6:45 a.m.

A few minutes later, just before 7 a.m., they were notified of a second fire at Duke of Connaught Lodge No. 64 near Lonsdale Ave. and 12th St., a 10-minute drive away.

First responders said the third fire was reported at the Park Lodge Masonic Hall in Vancouver just before 7:30 a.m.

“This was a really quick-moving, fast investigation,” DeVries said. 

While police tried to identify a suspect and draw connections between the three fires, officers were posted to other Masonic halls in the city.

The entrance to the Park Lodge Masonic Hall near Rupert St. and 29th Ave. in Vancouver has been taped off. Police said they were investigating an arson. (Christian Amundson/CBC News)

In Vancouver, Assistant Fire Chief Mike Sereda said police were already on scene by the time fire crews arrived.

“They had been contacted by a passerby,” he said, adding a fire investigator was also at the scene to determine the cause of the fire.

The glass of the centre’s front door had been smashed and the inside stairwell was burned and blackened. 

Fire crews work to extinguish a fire at a Masonic Hall on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lonsdale fire ‘a scene of devastation’

In North Vancouver’s Lonsdale neighbourhood, Terri Bubas said she could see flames from the Duke of Connaught Lodge No. 64 from two blocks away. 

“Lots of flames and the brickwork has collapsed and the top of the building,” she said. “It’s quite a scene of devastation, actually.”

Flames engulf a building near Lonsdale Avenue and 12th Street in North Vancouver on Tuesday. (Submitted by Terri Bubas)

Bubas saw at least five fire trucks along with police cars and ambulances on scene.

The city block where the Lonsdale fire started includes a fitness center, a juice restaurant, and office space.

‘The whole sky was filled with smoke’

In North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley area, Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Duncan said a neighbour reported the fire at the Lynn Valley Lodge, near Lynn Valley Road and Harold Road.

Police tape blocks off the scene of a fire that broke out at a Masonic Hall in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver early Tuesday morning. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“Upon arrival, there were heavy flames on the entranceway and the exterior of the building,” he said. Additional units were called to respond, Duncan said, and at least 26 firefighters were on the scene.

Hannah Sluis, a barista at Waves Coffee on Mountain Highway, says she saw flames engulfing the lodge as she drove to work.

“As I got to work the whole sky was filled with smoke,” she said. “I just did my best to keep it out of the store.”

Sluis said she saw at least eight firefighters on the scene and that the road had been blocked off.

Four People Arrested for Arson Across West Coast Amid Wildfires

JACK PHILLIPS 
September 13, 2020

Two people in Washington state, one in Oregon, and one in California have been arrested on arson charges as firefighters battle numerous wildfires throughout the West Coast.

Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, is accused of starting the Almeda Fire, said the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, reported OregonLive. Bakkela was arrested on two counts of arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief, and 14 counts of reckless endangerment, officials said.

A witness in Phoenix, Oregon, said they saw a person who was later identified as Bakkela lighting a fire behind their house on Quail Lane. Residents were forced to flee their homes after seeing him allegedly set the fire.

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Jarrod Bakkela (Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)

According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in a statement, police arrived to find that “Bakkela was standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.”

They also found that Bakkela was lodged on a probation violation detainer for possession of methamphetamine of more two ounces.

Local reports said that the Almeda Fire has destroyed hundreds of homes and left at least two people dead.

Authorities arrested two people in connection to fires in Washington state, identifying one as Jeffrey Alan Acord, who is accused of starting a fire along Highway 167. Officials said that he live-streamed himself setting the blaze and apparently reported himself to police.

Witnesses told KIRO7 that Acord allegedly was seen walking on the highway with a lighter and cardboard. The outlet reported that he is a regular at Black Lives Matter and anti-police rallies in Seattle.

Jacob Altona, 28, was arrested in connection to arson in Washington state near State Route 512 and State Route 7, officials said.

In California, Anita Esquivel, 37, was arrested for deliberately setting fires in California, said the California Highway Patro, according to KION-TV.

The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office told KION that there is no evidence that Esquivel has a connection to Black Lives Matter or far-left group Antifa.

Officials said Esquivel allegedly set fires on Highway 101 near Boronda Road in Salinas. She was taken to Monterey County Jail on arson charges.

On Saturday, the National Interagency Fire Center noted that about 97 fires have burned 4.7 million acres across the West Coast.

“More than 29,000 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildfires. Evacuation orders are in place for 40 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah,” the agency said.

Rumors About Antifa Setting Wildfires Are False: Law Enforcement

ZACHARY STIEBER 
September 11, 2020

Rumors that members of the far-left Antifa network are behind the spate of wildfires in Oregon are not substantiated, law enforcement officials warned this week.

While a number of people have been arrested for arson in recent days, none appear to have explicit ties to the network.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office officials wrote on Facebook that 911 dispatchers were “being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires” in the county.

The rumor isn’t true, officials said, urging people to stop spreading it.

The Molalla Police Department, while asking people to report any suspicious activity because of rumors about people looting while fires raged, later edited its post, telling people: “This is about possible looters, not antifa or setting of fires. There has been NO antifa in town.”

And the Medford Police Department posted a screenshot of a story that claimed police arrested a man for arson.

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A street is shrouded by smoke from wildfires in West Linn, Ore., Sept. 10, 2020. (Christian Gallagher via AP)

“This is a made up graphic and story. We did not arrest this person for arson, nor anyone affiliated with Antifa or ‘Proud Boys’ as we’ve heard throughout the day. Also, no confirmed gatherings of Antifa which has also been reported,” the department stated on social media.

Antifa members have repeatedly set fires in Portland this summer.

Some individuals have been arrested this month for arson or with incendiary devices in Oregon, California, Washington state.

Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested last week for allegedly setting a fire that burned hundreds of acres near Eugene, Oregon, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Detectives took a 27-year-old man into custody in Madera County, California on Thursday because he possessed illegal firearms, drugs, and bomb-making materials.

Christine Comello, 36, was arrested in Spokane, Washington on Monday on suspicion of setting fires.

And two men were apprehended in Puyallup and Parkland, Washington trying to ignite flames, state troopers said. Jeffrey Acord, one of the men, said he called police after a fire started near him during a live stream on Facebook.

Epoch Times Photo
A farm is leveled by the South Obenchain Fire along Butte Falls Highway in Eagle Point, Ore., on Sept. 10, 2020. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

“I’m out here on 167 right now it looks like a fire literally just started,” Acord said in the video.

“Ultimately it was determined is that they had probable cause to believe that gentleman had started that fire,” Puyallup Police Capt. Jason Visnaw told King 5.

Acord was arrested during unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 for possession of a concealed weapon and other charges. According to his Facebook page, he is a Black Lives Matter supporter.

Humans are believed to be behind several fires that burned through over 2,000 acres in Lincoln County as well as flames that destroyed some 600 houses in Almeda County.

“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told Reuters. “We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise.”

O’Meara told The Oregonian that rumors regarding Antifa were “100 percent false.”

“We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction,” he added.Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber