Suspect in apartment fire has violent past, say police

The suspect in a weekend apartment fire has a long violent history, say Edmonton police.
An apartment fire in south Edmonton forced residents to jump from their balconies Sunday. The fire was deliberately set. (CBC)

The suspect in a weekend apartment fire has a long violent history, say Edmonton police.

Zachary Holland, 25, is wanted on one count of attempted murder and arson causing injury to four victims following the fire at 99th Street and 86th Avenue.

Holland is facing charges from an unrelated attack last spring.

"He's alleged to have dragged his then girlfriend behind his car on the Whitemud Freeway," said spokesperson Scott Pattison.

Zachary Holland, 25, of Edmonton is wanted on one count of attempted murder and arson causing injury. (EPS)

He was charged in March with kidnapping, aggravated assault and criminal negligence.

Police believe Holland fled to Calgary after Sunday's fire, which started just before 3 a.m.

Police say Holland has had a 1½-year relationship with the 18-year-old female resident of the apartment in Old Strathcona.

The woman was knocked unconscious after being hit over the head with the lid of the back of a toilet, said Pattison.

"The suspect in this case returned to the bedroom where he lit a fire and then escaped over the balcony," he said. 

"It's hard to say at this time whether...the individual was trying to cover up the assault," said Pattison.

The woman managed to leave the building while she was on fire. Jarrad Kirchner was one of group of people who came to her rescue.

"Her hair was all frizzed out, smouldering," Kirchner said.

"She was in shock. She was convulsing. It was bad. I've never seen anything like it in my life before."

Three residents of other suites in the apartment building were sent to hospital with smoke inhalation. The three have been released, but the woman is recovering in hospital.

Firefighters said the doors to the stairwells were left open which allowed the smoke and hot gases from the fire to block escape routes for other building residents. 

"If people would have went into those hallways, they would not have made it out alive," said Capt. John Yaschuk.