Nova Scotia

Court to hear lawsuit against 2 firefighters who set man's home ablaze

A lawsuit launched after a Cape Breton man's home was destroyed by arson two years ago is expected to be heard Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

CBRM also named in lawsuit linked to rash of arsons in North Sydney area in 2016

James MacDonald (left) and Stephen Tremblett pleaded guilty to setting fires when they were members of the Florence volunteer fire department. (Facebook)

A lawsuit launched after a Cape Breton man's home was destroyed by arson two years ago is expected to be heard Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Colin Douglas MacDonald of Florence is suing the two volunteer firefighters who deliberately set fire to his home in Scotch Lake, as well as the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. 

He is seeking close to $400,000.

1 of 16 cases of arson

The home was set ablaze Aug. 24, 2016. It was one in a series of 16 deliberately set fires between May and August of that year in the North Sydney area, mostly involving vacant houses and outbuildings.

Three volunteers with the Florence volunteer fire department were subsequently charged.

Stephen Tremblett, 52, of North Sydney pleaded guilty to five counts of arson and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay restitution of just over $100,000.

James Clayton MacDonald, 25, of Point Aconi pleaded guilty to 14 arson charges. He is serving four years and was ordered to pay restitution of $137,000.

A third firefighter pleaded guilty to two counts of mischief.

In a lawsuit filed in August 2017, Colin MacDonald said police were already investigating Tremblett and MacDonald for fires and other criminal behaviour related to their actions as volunteer firefighters when his house was set on fire.

He alleges the Cape Breton Regional Municipality failed to inform the public of what was happening and also failed to suspend the two firefighters pending a full investigation.

MacDonald said the CBRM "knew or ought to have known" that the two men were continuing to commit further acts of arson.

CBRM says it's not to blame

MacDonald is looking for $222,000 in specific damages for the loss of his home, $25,000 for pain and suffering, and a further $150,000 from the CBRM for breaching its statutory duties and acts of negligence.

In a statement of defence, the CBRM said any damages were caused by the intentional acts of Tremblett and MacDonald acting on their own, and not on behalf of the municipality or in their capacity as volunteer firefighters.

James MacDonald also filed a brief statement of defence in which he "neither admits or denies" the allegations of facts in the lawsuit.

Tremblett has not filed a defence.

The case has been delayed several times over procedural matters involving disclosure of documents. Colin MacDonald is seeking the complete police file on the arson investigation, the record of all police surveillance relating to the arsons, and the CBRM personnel files for Tremblett and MacDonald.

Read more articles from CBC Nova Scotia

About the Author

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca