Fear gripping Bell Island residents in wake of suspicious fires

A Bell Island businessman whose property was burned to the ground says a recent string of fires in the area has residents worried
Mayor Gary Gosine says all of the buildings burned in rash of suspicious fires were vacant. (CBC)

A Bell Island businessman whose property was burned to the ground says a recent string of suspicious fires in the area has residents worried.

Over the past month, business properties, trailers, and more have been set ablaze on Bell Island, causing police and residents to suspect foul play.

Ron Moores, whose family owns a local Home Hardware store and other businesses, had his warehouse and an apartment building burned to the ground by a possible arsonist. 

The warehouse was abandoned and the apartment building was being renovated, and as a result, neither was insured.

Moores said people on the island are scared to even discuss the fires.

"People are nervous about the repercussions that might happen if you talk about it in the public or out around the community," he said.

"They're nervous about their own homes, their own sheds and their own buildings."

Community holding public meeting

On Wednesday, police arrested two young men in connection with torching a stolen car on Bell Island.

Moores and other residents aren't sure if the two men are responsible for other fires in the area, but in the meantime he's not taking any chances by doing any construction work.

"We've got some buildings that we need to renovate, and it's hard to justify doing it if you might lose it," he said.

"We're trying to get some more insurance on it for the short term anyway."

In the wake of the fires, a public meeting is being held Thursday night in Wabana to talk about what's happening.

Mayor Gary Gosine said the entire community is petrified and people are afraid to speak out.

"The fear is, as people will say, we can't say nothing because we'll be burnt out too," said Gosine.

"If we want to take back our community it's up to the people to talk."

The town has asked the RCMP to do extra patrols and they're trying to set up a neighbourhood watch system.

Meanwhile, Moores hopes that something will be done before the area gets a reputation for arson.

"It's pretty needless to do this kind of stuff," he said.

"It makes Bell Island look bad and makes everyone look bad."