Police, firefighters issue warning after more suspicious fires strike Vanier

Ottawa police and firefighters are warning residents of Vanier to be alert after a series of suspicious fires in the area that a neighbourhood crime prevention advocate calls "very worrisome."

Vanier residents scared, angry, crime prevention advocate says

Ottawa police are investigating a suspicious fire in Vanier that happened early Sunday morning. 0:24

Ottawa police and firefighters are warning residents of Vanier to be on alert after a series of suspicious fires in the area that a neighbourhood crime prevention advocate calls "very worrisome."

The most recent broke out just before 3 a.m. Sunday at 309 Montfort St., a two-storey home at the corner of Ste Anne Avenue, just off Montreal Road. Someone was home at the time but no one was injured.

Arson unit investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.

Another fire on May 20 at a two-storey home at 278 Shakespeare St. is also being treated as suspicious. That blaze displaced four people, firefighters said.

Because some of the fires began in waste bins, homeowners in the neighbourhood are being asked to bring in their garbage and recycling at night.

Residents 'feeling scared'

Lucie Marleau of Crime Prevention Vanier calls the ongoing arson activity "very worrisome," and said the fires have residents on edge.

"I've gone from being curious to being concerned, and then that raised to another level of concern. Now the residents are feeling scared, and a little bit angry," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday.

Extra firetrucks were needed to help put out a fire on Shakespeare Street in Vanier last month. (Scott Stilborn/Ottawa Fire Services)
Two people have been displaced as a result of the recent fires, Marleau said. To ease fears in the neighbourhood, she wants police to be more forthcoming with information, rather than just recommending residents to bring in recycling and trash bins.

"My question is whether there's additional police patrol in that area, and I've been told that there is not. So that's disconcerting," she said. 

"I'm also encouraging residents to be vigilant, to report any suspicious behaviour. But we don't know what that suspicious behaviour looks like. So we would like some additional information on what it is that we could do."

Spring fires under investigation

In early April three homes in Vanier went up in flames within hours of each other. 

Those fires are all still under investigation.

Marleau believes promoting and fostering a better sense of community in Vanier can help prevent arson.

"My definition of crime prevention is broader than just this one thing of bringing in recycle bins and trash cans. My definition extends to saying hi to your neighbours, and saying hi to people on the street. A would-be criminal is less likely to do harm if they see that they've been acknowledged," she said. 

"I also want neighbours to look out for each other, to report abandoned properties, to report properties that are below standards that aren't being kept, so that they are a risk of being targeted by fire."

Anyone with information regarding the fires is asked to call the arson unit of the Ottawa Police Service at 613-236-1222, ext. 3770. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning