Nova Scotia

New Minas businesses fear arsonist

A series of suspicious fires in New Minas has the business community on edge.

A series of suspicious fires in New Minas has the business community on edge.

There was a fire shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday at Milne Court. It started in some bales of Styrofoam packing outside the building, which houses a number of businesses.

"I'd say it was about $60,000 worth of damage. It charred the outside. It charred the inside. It went up into the roof and almost into the rafters and that's what would have destroyed the building completely," said Scott Fraser, a local businessman.

It happened in an area next to a gas station and was less than 100 metres away from gas tanks with a capacity of 50,000 litres.

"There's a lot of gas in the ground over there, so there needs to be action taken on this," Fraser said.

Officials say the blaze was the eighth deliberately set fire in New Minas in the last six weeks.

Most of the fires have been behind businesses. Garbage bins are popular targets. That was the site of one fire behind the Wal-Mart store on Nov. 29.

"Any small fire in a dumpster can escalate into a larger fire, and if anybody sees any suspicious activity certainly should call the RCMP," said Const. Blair MacMurtery, with Kings District RCMP.

The rash of fires is bringing back bad memories. There were 50 suspicious fires in the area between 2006 and 2008. They stopped after police arrested and charged a 17-year-old.

But now the fires are back.

"Most of these are in the same area, probably within a half-kilometre radius," said Jim Redmond, chief of the New Minas Fire Department.

RCMP plan to step up their patrols in the area. They urge business owners to be careful about what they leave outside their stores after hours.