Ottawa police arson unit investigates fire lit in downtown apartment lobby

The Ottawa police arson unit is investigating a fire residents say was deliberately set in their apartment building lobby in the Centretown area early Sunday morning.

Resident reeling after incident early Sunday morning inside Lisgar Street building

Security footage obtained by Matias Munoz, a resident of an apartment building near Metcalfe and Lisgar streets in downtown Ottawa, appears to show what he describes as a fire in the lobby of the building early Sunday morning. (Matias Munoz/Twitter)

The Ottawa police arson unit is investigating a fire residents say was deliberately set in their apartment building lobby in the Centretown area early Sunday morning.

Matias Munoz, who lives at the apartment located near the intersection of Lisgar and Metcalfe streets, said a few tenants woke up to find evidence of someone trying to start a fire near the elevators.

"When they woke up early in the morning, [they] discovered some little pucks that are like square bricks that are meant to start fires," Munoz said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Monday. 

"They were charred and a whole box of them was kind of, you know, laid out all over the lobby of the building."

He explained how residents were first confused by the discovery and then, through the building manager, Munoz and some other tenants were able to view the security footage.

Matias Munoz stands outside an apartment building on Lisgar Street where police are investigating an alleged attempt to start a fire in the building’s lobby. (Justin Tang/CP)

"We all were a little scared, a little nervous, and we got together and kind of put our heads together to figure out how we're going to approach this," Munoz said.

On the footage, he described seeing two individuals lighting a fire in the lobby shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday. After the suspects leave, another individual is seen coming into view and quickly extinguishing the fire near the elevators, Munoz said.

Mayor says protesters have 'malicious intent'

Ottawa police have confirmed to CBC News the incident is being investigated by its arson unit after receiving a call for service. 

Mid-Monday afternoon, police said they were looking for two persons of interest in the case and asked anyone with information to contact investigators.

Munoz said there was a confrontation between some residents and a few anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside just hours before the fire.

Police have not confirmed any link between their investigation into this incident and the ongoing convoy protest.

At a special council meeting Monday afternoon, Mayor Jim Watson spoke about the alleged arson incident, including it among a list of harassment incidents against residents and disruptions in the city he blamed on the ongoing protest.

"Yesterday we learned of a horrific story that clearly demonstrates the malicious intent of these protesters occupying our city," he said, referring to the two suspects captured in the security footage posted online.

"Thankfully no one was hurt, but this story could have ended very, very differently. It's extremely disturbing, and points to a desire to harm our residents."

Meanwhile, Coun. Diane Deans said one alleged detail from witnesses — that the front door was duct-taped to prevent those outside from entering the building — showed "the escalation of their tactics knows no bounds."

Ottawa police Deputy Chief Steve Bell told council a full team from the arson unit is investigating and working to identify suspects.

With files from Ryan Garland and Hallie Cotnam