Nova Scotia

String of fires in Florence investigated as arson by Cape Breton police

Volunteer firefighters have been called out 13 times in the last two months for fires around the small Cape Breton community of Florence.

Fires being set outside abandoned or vacant houses, sheds, barns

This vacant house was targeted by fire on June 30. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Someone — or perhaps more than one "someone" — has been setting fires in the tiny Cape Breton community of Florence.

Volunteer firefighters have responded to 13 fires in the past two months in Florence, just north of Sydney Mines.

The latest one was on June 30, when firefighters were called out at 10 p.m. to a fire that was set in an abandoned house.

That led to the cancellation of the community's Canada Day parade the next day. Firefighters were tired from the night before and officials didn't want to risk a fire call coming in while the trucks were caught in the parade route.

There have been fires in boat sheds, barns, vacant houses and even a former community centre, which was destroyed by the blaze. 

Florence volunteer fire chief Dave Julian fears someone will get hurt as his department continues to deal with a rash of arsons. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Fire chief Dave Julian says it's been determined that nine of the 13 fires were deliberately set on the outside of the buildings.

He's calling on nearby homeowners to be watchful.

"Just keep your eyes out for anybody that looks suspicious," he cautioned. "This guy is probably showing up to all of our calls and we gotta find him. 'Cause God forbid one of us gets hurt, 'cause it's gonna happen."

Julian says the fires are taking a toll on his members, most of whom have regular jobs in addition to their volunteer duties.

'As serious as it can get'

He says there have been almost as many fires in the past few weeks as there were all last year in Florence.

"It's as serious as it can get," he said. 

"Structure fires are one of the biggest calls we can get. We have a lot of structure fires [every] year, just not in this time span."

Cape Breton Regional Police is investigating the string of fires.

Staff Sgt. Phillip Ross says investigators are examining forensic evidence from the fire scenes.

"One of the biggest things that we use is our forensic identification unit and the fire marshal's office," he explained. 

"We definitely call on their expertise to assist us in the investigation as far as how the fire started, the fire patterns and what not."

Ross says officers are also in the community, canvassing door-to-door for information in the areas near the fire locations.