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Sole house to survive Caledonia land dispute in Douglas Creek Estates burns

The only house that survived the extremely contentious Caledonia land dispute in Douglas Creek Estates from 2006 nearly burned to the ground overnight.

'It's probably too early to call it suspicious just yet'

Police and the fire marshal's office are both investigating a fire that broke out in Douglas Creek Estates overnight. (Dave Ritchie/CBC)

The only house that survived the extremely contentious Caledonia land dispute in Douglas Creek Estates from 2006 nearly burned to the ground overnight.

Now, police and the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal are investigating, given the "political sensitivities of the area," Haldimand County Fire Chief Rob Grimwood told CBC News.

Fire crews were first called to 100 Thistlemoor Drive in Calendonia just after 1 a.m.

The one house that burned last night was sort of a symbolic one.- Rob Grimwood, Haldimand County fire chief

"The fire was through the roof when we arrived," Grimwood said. "It will be a complete loss."

No one was inside the home at the time, he said. Investigators are still trying to discern the cause, but they have ruled out the usual suspects like a pot left on a stove, an electrical problem or smoking.

"It's probably too early to call it suspicious just yet," he said.

Native and non-native groups marched in Caledonia, Ont., to draw attention to one of Canada's most contentious aboriginal land claims 3:32

But the incident is still being examined closely. A decade ago, protesters from Six Nations occupied a section of land in the area and set up a blockade, disputing a land deal with roots that stretch back to the late 1700s.

"The one house that burned last night was sort of a symbolic one," Grimwood said. "Every house but one was destroyed or torn down during the conflict."

Douglas Creek Estates was supposed to become a subdivision, but instead was bought by the provincial government.

A group of Six Nations members took over the housing project back in February of 2006, erecting tents, a teepee and a wooden building.

Officials say the house stood as a kind of symbol, but now is a total write-off. (Dave Ritchie/CBC)

Over the next several months, tensions mounted alongside political pressure for the people who were protesting to be removed from the site. In some cases, violence broke out, with fires set and helicopters roaring overhead.

Several criminal cases arose out of the dispute, as well as a $20 million class action lawsuit against the province and the OPP, which claimed they failed to properly protect residents in the area.

Firefighters are estimating the damage from last night's fire to be around $400,000.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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