A fire lit at 100 Mile Junior Secondary Friday evening is being investigated as arson.
The fire occurred just days after crews started demolishing the old dormitory behind the school. 100 Mile RCMP Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen said police and Fire Rescue were called to the school site at 9:30 p.m. after someone set alight the construction debris pile in the northeast corner, where the dorm and cafeteria had been located. 100 Mile Fire Rescue worked all night to extinguish the blaze and left the scene at about 8 a.m. Saturday.
“We had 17 of our firefighters on scene, the fire was contained to the debris pile itself and we were able to protect the excavator backhoe that was on-site as well as the remainder of the school itself,” 100 Mile House Fire Rescue chief Roger Hollander said. “I’m proud of the crew, they put in long hours. Often with these structure fires it takes a number of hours to put out and there’s a lot of fire load (in the pile).”
Two possible suspects were identified fleeing the scene. Fire Rescue also seized evidence and provided it to 100 Mile House RCMP for further analysis. 100 Mile Fire Rescue and 100 Mile House RCMP are continuing to collaborate as to the cause of the fire.
“Even though the buildings are being torn down, there was potentially significant risk to the community from extremely poor air quality to the potential for the fire to spread to other parts of the town,” Nielsen said in a joint news release with 100 Mile Fire Rescue. “Fortunately, there were no reported injuries to anyone caused by the event or while the 100 Mile Fire Rescue extinguished the blaze.”
Hollander said beyond being “awfully tired” he said his crew was fine and had all the resources they needed to fight the flames. He extends his thanks to whomever called the fire in early as it gave them a chance to respond quickly. He asks the public stay away from the scene as, in addition to an investigation scene now, the school is still an active construction site.
The school had been sitting empty for the past decade after being closed due to “failing systems” in the building, including roofing, the alarm system, sprinkler system and the failure of two boilers, which would have been a huge expense to maintain and fix up. Over the years, the school had also been subject to vandalism and attempted squatters, which influenced the decision to demolish it.
The contract for the demolition and hazardous materials removal was awarded to Napp Enterprises out of Prince George. Crews had knocked down a sizeable chunk of the building as of Friday and the demolition of the school was expected to be done sometime in mid-January.
The joint investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call the 100 Mile House RCMP at 250-395-2456 and refer to file 2020-3969 or if someone wishes to remain anonymous, they can contact BC Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477).