British Columbia

Camosun College cancels some Tuesday classes after arson fires

The Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence, where many elite Canadian athletes train, is temporarily closed as a result of arson. Tuesday classes in those buildings have been cancelled.

Campus officials announce class cancellations for Tuesday

Fire crews work to put out a fire police say was deliberately set at the Pacific Institute for Excellence in Sport on Sunday Nov. 25, 2018. (Dan Wood)

An important facility in Saanich, B.C., for many of Canada's best athletes is closed and classes will be cancelled Tuesday after a fire was intentionally set in the building early Sunday morning.

Police say they arrested a 30-year-old Victoria man following fires at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence (PISE) and another building on the adjacent Camosun College Interurban campus called the Centre for Business and Access building (CBA).

PISE provides facilities and programming for high-level athletes and community members, including children and youth.

"It's home to many of our country's world-class athletes who come here to train and to work," said Dan Wood, the deputy chief of operations for the Saanich Fire Department.

Firefighters responded to the first fire at PISE just after 2 a.m. PT on Sunday. While they were extinguishing it, crews were alerted to another alarm from the other building. Firefighters found a small fire burning inside, and police arrested a suspect at the scene.

No one was injured. 

Const. Matt Cawsey wrote in a release that several charges, including break and enter, arson, mischief and theft, are being recommended and that the suspect remains in custody.

Wood said it appeared that someone had set on fire boxes and poster boards from the lobby of the CBA building. That fire was relatively small.

Classes cancelled

The damage at PISE was much more extensive. A reception area with computers, desk and chairs was set on fire.

The building suffered water damage, but staff are hopeful it won't be permanent thanks to the rubber sports floor. 

The building houses 450 students pursuing degrees in sports and wellness. Classes in the two buildings, plus the Centre for Trade Education and Innovation, were cancelled Monday, mainly over air quality concerns.

"It's a very significant disruption," said Robert Bettauer, the CEO of PISE.

Leaders from PISE and Camosun College met Monday afternoon to assess the damage.

Monday afternoon, the school issued a statement that Tuesday's classes at the PISE, CBA and the Centre for Trades Education and Innovation are also cancelled as it awaits final air quality test results.

The rest of the campus will be open as normal, Camosun said.and an update will come Tuesday afternoon.

'Certainly dangerous'

The deliberately set fires follow six others set on Halloween night in an area spanning Saanich and Victoria.

Wood says arson is a needless crime.

"You know it is reckless and it puts not only our citizens and their properties at risk, it also puts our firefighters at risk," he said.

"There's no reason for that type of behaviour."

With files from CBC's On the Island