Fatal fire ‘incendiary’ in nature

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Cleanup the morning after a fatal February fire in Wallaceburg.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An investigation by Ontario’s Office of the Fire Marshal is classifying last month’s deadly blaze in Wallaceburg as an incendiary fire.

OFM lead investigator Michael Ross said that while he can’t discuss specifics of the fire’s origin it’s “believed to be ignited.

“We have a preliminary working hypothesis or theory, that will be refined once more information becomes available,” Ross told The Voice in a telephone interview.

“We’re waiting for some additional information,” he added, noting all potential conditions before the emergency call contribute to the final analysis.

The Feb. 17 blaze claimed three lives even though Station 3 firefighters from Wallaceburg were on scene within three minutes of getting the call around 2 a.m.

In earlier reports, Chatham-Kent Fire Service Chief Chris Case said a man and woman were pulled from the fire in a “rapid attack” by firefighters.

However, the man was deceased at the scene while the woman was pronounced dead at the hospital.

A second deceased man was later found by firefighters after the blaze was extinguished.

Ross said weather conditions made the probe into the fire challenging, with wind, snow and sub-zero temperatures complicating the process.

In order to ensure there were no other victims in the blaze, Ross said the home’s collapsed and frozen ruins were re-heated and sifted.

“We had to construct plywood rooms and heat them with a large output heater,” Ross explained.

Investigators then raked through the material, he said, before sifting it through a quarter-inch screen.

A total of six investigators, including a forensic engineer, probed the debris before turning the scene over to the Chatham-Kent Police Service crime unit.

Police officials said the incident is still under investigation.

Built in 1926, the large Arts and Crafts style home – originally known as Gloucester Place – was an architectural showpiece in the region. The popular site was drew important visitors including top politicians and celebrities.

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