News

Municipality seeks tips on suspicious fires in region

RCMP and the Municipality of Cumberland are encouraging anyone with information on a series of suspicious fires to come forward.

A series of suspicious fires in rural Cumberland County has the municipality’s director of protective services urging people to report anything suspicious they may have seen in the area.

Bill Ireland said the outbreak of suspicious fires is troubling because it places a strain on the area’s rural fire departments and threatens the health and safety of community members and first responders.

“Because of the nature of our operations, it draws on the resources of not only the fire department that responds, in this case Collingwood, but it’s also drawing on other fire departments, like Springhill, Oxford and Westchester,” Ireland said. “It doesn’t leave those communities unprotected, but it’s going to delay any secondary response.”

Seven fires have taken place in and around the Collingwood-River Philip area since Aug. 5, including a pair of fires on Aug. 26 – one involving a structure fire on the Wyvern Road in Wyvern and another on Highway 321 in River Philip that saw bales of hay set ablaze.

The latest fire, on Sept. 9, destroyed the former United Church building in River Philip.

The River Philip church was built in 1862 and was valued as an excellent example of a country church adorned with unusual design elements and Classical Revival features. The church is also valued for its association with the early settlers of River Philp and for the role it played in the development of the community.

The first Methodist meetings were held in private homes in River Philip and in 1827 the first meeting house was built for the congregation.

The church was purposely built over the graves of John Black and his wife, Barbara, demonstrating the importance and high regard they were held in the community.

The River Philip congregation became part of the United Church of Canada in 1925.While this fire and the others since Aug. 5 involved vacant buildings, Ireland said the risk to the community is too much.

“At the church fire there was a firefighter who suffered an injury. Every time you respond there is a risk involved,” Ireland said.

Cpl. Chris Marshall of the Nova Scotia RCMP said police are continuing their investigation of all the fires. He is urging anyone with information on the fires to contact the Cumberland RCMP at 902-597-3779. Should they prefer to remain anonymous, they can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), submit a secure web tip at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca or us the P3 Tips App. 

“We are actively investigating these fires and we’re looking into every lead we get and every bit of evidence,” Marshall said. “Someone out there may think what they have isn’t significant, but every bit of evidence is another piece of the puzzle and that piece of the puzzle that someone has may be the piece that puts it all together.”

Besides the fire that destroyed the church, other fires include:

On Aug.5, at approximately 5:10 a.m., Cumberland County District RCMP and fire responded to a report of a barn fire on Highway 321 in River Phillip.

On Aug. 12, at approximately 4:30 a.m., RCMP officers and fire responded to a structure fire on Silica Road in Williamsdale.

On Aug. 19, at approximately 6 a.m., RCMP officers and fire responded to a structure fire on Westchester Road in Rose.

On Aug. 25, at approximately 9:55 a.m., RCMP officers and fire responded to a covered bridge that was on fire near Mountain Road in Collingwood.

On Aug. 26, at approximately 1:55 a.m., RCMP officers and fire responded to a report of a structure fire on Wyvern Road in Wyvern.

At approximately 2:35 a.m. the same morning, RCMP officers and fire responded to a report of hay bales on fire on Highway 321 in River Philip.