Church in Saanich hit with suspicious fire

Saanich police are investigating after a small fire appears to have been set at the Saanich Baptist Church Thursday morning.

Saanich police are investigating after a small fire appears to have been set at the Saanich Baptist Church Thursday morning.

Volunteers arrived to the smell of smoke around 8:15 a.m. and unsuccessfully searched the building, in the 4300-block of Wilkinson Rd., for a source of the smell. It wasn’t until around 9 a.m. when someone noticed a pile of cedar chips in the front garden was charred and smouldering.

“Our investigators attended. Given the recent activity, we wanted to handle this with the utmost of care,” said Sgt. Steve Eassie, referring to a rash of arsons that have popped up in Saanich and Victoria, now three Thursdays in a row.

“There’s no clear nexus between this investigation and the previous investigations, although the fire is of a suspicious nature,” he added.

The cause of the Baptist Church fire hasn’t been determined, and Eassie says there’s a possibility it could be deemed accidental.

Overnight between April 11 and 12, Saanich fire crews responded to five suspicious fires, including one that destroyed the ABC Country Restaurant on Maple Street.

On April 18, fire crews dealt with a bathroom fire at a Victoria hotel and a dumpster fire at a Saanich mall.

Saanich and Victoria fire inspectors and working with the police departments to determine if any or all of the fires are connected. They’re also going back through suspicious fires from the last month or so to try to link any other incidents.

A 25-year-old man was arrested early on April 12, but was released without charges. Eassie says investigators believe there are at least two individuals starting these fires.

kslavin@saanichnews.com