Man arrested for Fort Rouge arsons

A 20-year-old man has been arrested in connection with numerous fires that have targeted Winnipeg's Fort Rouge neighbourhood.
A dog died in a house fire in the 800 block of Hector Avenue on July 26. (Shaun McLeod)

A 20-year-old man has been arrested in connection with numerous fires that have targeted Winnipeg's Fort Rouge neighbourhood.

Brandon Sutyla has been charged with 20 counts of arson-related offences as well as possessing an incendiary device used to start the fires, and breach of probation.

Of the arson charges, 18 are for damage to property and two are for disregard to human life.

Seventeen of the fires were in Fort Rouge and one was in Fort Garry.

Sutyla was arrested Wednesday.

Police allege he is responsible for fires set between May 1 and July 26.

"These fires created a significant risk to life and property," police stated in a news release.

No people died in any of the fires but some family pets were killed. The damage estimate for the fires is $680,000.

Location of fires

Brandon Sutyla, 20, is charged in connection with fires at these locations:

    2011-05-01 - 900 block of Fleet Avenue

    2011-05-26 - 900 block of Mulvey Avenue

    2011-05-30 - 900 block of Fleet Avenue

    2011-06-02 - 900 block of Garwood Avenue

    2011-06-05 - 800 block of Fleet Avenue

    2011-06-05 - 1100 block of Fleet Avenue

    2011-06-10 - 700 block of Ebby Street

    2011-06-10 - 400 block of Harrow Street

    2011-06-19 - 800 block of Hector Avenue

    2011-06-19 - 800 block of Lorette Avenue

    2011-07-01 - 900 block of Hector Avenue

    2011-07-02 - 700 block of Fleet Avenue

    2011-07-22 - 900 block of Dudley Avenue

    2011-07-22 - 600 block of Garwood Avenue

    2011-07-24 - 900 block of Garwood Avenue

    2011-07-26 - 800 block of Hector Avenue

    2011-07-27 - 1000 block of Dudley Avenue

    2011-08-02 - 1000 block of Chancellor Drive

 "I think it's not a good thing to live worrying about whether somebody is going to do damage to your place or not," said Laurie Ahoff, who woke up one morning in June to find his house on fire.

"The neighbours were very kind to us and very helpful, and I think their thinking was 'there but for the grace of God,' because of the randomness of these things."

Ahoff and his family escaped unharmed. Damage to the back of the house was estimated at $50,000.

2nd arson spree

Sutyla remains in police custody and his lawyer, Martin Glazer, said his client will fight the charges.

Glazer said Sutyla was at home when many of the fires were set.

He said Sutyla suffers from attention deficit disorder and operates at the intellectual level of a 10-year-old.

Glazer said his client was alone when he confessed to the fires during 24 hours of police questioning.

"Someone like my client, taking a statement from him, it's like taking candy from a baby. He's easily influenced," Glazer said.

It's the second time Sutyla has been charged in a rash of arsons.

In August 2009, he was charged with 19 arson-related offences after fires were set in the River Heights and Tuxedo neighbourhoods throughout the spring and summer.

Garages, fences, garbage containers and sheds were set on fire starting in April and the torchings continued until Sutyla's arrest on Aug. 18, 2009.

Police estimated property damage relating to that arson spree was $280,000.

Buildings around the miniature steam train in Assiniboine Park were set alight at least four times, damaging the train's ticket booth, maintenance buildings and water tower.

When the case finally got to court in September 2010 he pleaded guilty and was given two years of probation.

He was just eight months into that probation when the Fort Rouge fires started.

With files from The Canadian Press