British Columbia

Arson charge laid against Vancouver man in vacant home fire

38-year-old Johnathan Lewis Durocher of Vancouver is expected to appear in court today after he was arrested near a suspected arson at a vacant home on Vancouver's West Side.

38-year-old Johnathan Lewis Durocher of Vancouver is charged in connection with fire Sunday in West Point Grey

Police arrested Johnathan Lewis Durocher, far right, after the 38-year-old allegedly ran from the scene of a fire at a vacant home on Vancouver's West Side on Sunday. (Errol Richardson/CBC)

A 38-year-old Vancouver man is expected to appear in court today after he was arrested Sunday near a suspected arson at a vacant home on Vancouver's West Side.

Johnathan Lewis Durocher is charged with arson causing damage to a property in connection with the fire on Drummond Drive near West 2nd Ave in West Point Grey yesterday.

It is the latest in at least 29 suspicious fires at vacant homes in the city this year, police said.

Last year, there were only five, said Const. Jason Doucette of the Vancouver Police Department.

Police said little about Durocher in a media briefing this morning, but a court search revealed Durocher has had a prolific recent criminal history in the Vancouver area.

In the past two years, he's been convicted 21 times of theft under $5,000 for offences in Vancouver, North Vancouver and Richmond and has also breached his conditions eight times.

Vancouver police are looking for the public's help investigating 29 suspicious fires in vacant homes this year. (CBC)

Motive unclear

Doucette was asked repeatedly about possible motives, and whether the unusual string of fires might be caused by squatters, or is politically motivated by anger against empty homes.

He said it's too early for police to comment.

"I don't think people should jump to conclusions," said Doucette.

"When we look at things like motive, it could be something that's very mainstream that everyone's assuming, it could be things that we haven't even thought of."

A vacant church in Kerrisdale that burned early on Nov. 8 is one of the 29 suspicious fires at vacant buildings in Vancouver this year. (Kamil Karamali/CBC)

With files from Eric Rankin

now