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Shed fire suspicious

RCMP say arson charges likely

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 21/02) - Police say arson charges are pending following a fire which destroyed an old wooden shed in the downtown core Thursday night.

NNSL Photo

Firefighters extinguished a shed fire in the alley behind 51st Street before it spread to neighboring structures. Police are expecting to lay arson charges against an adult male suspect. - Chris Puglia/NNSL photo

RCMP Cpl. Bruce McGregor said arson charges have not yet been laid against the adult male suspect, but are likely.

Firefighters were called to 5109 51st Street just after 10 p.m. Thursday. Crews arrived to find a shed on the property engulfed in flames.

The fire was quickly extinguished but the shed was destroyed. As investigators battled hot spots and searched through the charred remains, RCMP officers placed a woman in handcuffs and put her in a police cruiser.

Another officer spoke with witnesses at the site and pursued another individual on foot. The officer returned a short time later with another female in handcuffs. McGregor said Monday that the women are not suspects but were taken into custody for questioning.

Fourteen-year-old Cat Taylor said he and a friend were walking through the alley just a few metres from the scene when he spotted two women and two men running from the shed.

"They were like running out and then the two guys dropped the cigarette and the liquor," he said before talking to police.

Mary Paulette, 11, who was also walking in the alley, said she heard what she believed to be a pair of explosions.

"We could hear two explosions ... I was a bit scared because our friend lives right over there and I was scared that his house would catch on fire," she said.

A construction worker guarding a freshly poured sidewalk near the alley also saw three people near the shed right before the fire started.

"They were fighting over there and then I walked just (to the corner near Outlander Sports) and then I came back and there was a fire," he said.

The worker said he did not see any other individuals in the alley.

Deputy Fire Chief Sandy McPhee said the house located on the property was burned-out last December. He said firefighters have been called to that address quite a few times.

"The shed was actually an older-type structure that was used by people for sleeping and drinking in," he said.

McPhee said the fire started in the middle of the shed and then caught a couch on fire.

He said the cause of the fire is suspicious and "there were lots of matches and smoking material found around."

McPhee said because firefighters have been called to the same address so often the fire marshal has ordered the owner of the property to tear down both structures.