Toronto

At least 5 tow trucks set ablaze in GTA overnight in latest incidents tied to industry

At least five tow trucks were set ablaze in the GTA early Monday morning in what are just the latest instances of vandalism and violence tied to the region's towing industry. 

Industry insiders say there is an ongoing turf war between towing operators

A tow truck parked on Devondale Avenue in North York was set on fire overnight, Toronto police say. (Jeremy Cohn/CBC)

At least five tow trucks were set ablaze in the GTA early Monday morning in what are just the latest instances of vandalism and violence tied to the region's towing industry. 

Three of the incidents happened within minutes of each other in the Bathurst Road and Finch Avenue area of North York, while two others occurred during roughly the same time frame — between 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. — in Richmond Hill. 

York Regional Police Insp. Christina Dawson said the fires are all "likely" connected.

A pick-up truck and a car were also set on fire in Peel Region a short time later, though police have not confirmed those vehicles are connected to a towing company.

Last week, CBC Toronto reported on what police and industry insiders described as an ongoing turf war between different towing operaters in the GTA.

"We've had murders, vehicles burned," said Mark Graves, president of Provincial Towing Association of Ontario, at the time.

"It hasn't escalated outside the industry. But we really want to try to get a handle on this before it does."

A tow truck set on fire in Richmond Hill. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Graves explained the number of different parties vying for the same areas is part of what is fuelling the turf war. Without regulations, people are free to buy a tow truck and work in the industry as they please, he said.

The association has called on the provincial government to implement provincial licenses and a set of standards in a bid to ease tensions and keep "bad apples" out of the industry.

"We need to have the government step up and work with us and say lets get this done, lets get this in motion," said Graves in an interview Monday. 

Earlier this month, a tow truck driver was shot at in a GO commuter parking lot near Richmond Hill. Police say it was a targeted attack and are still looking for a suspect after at least three shots were fired. The driver wasn't hit.

And in June, Toronto police announced the arrest of 73 people, including tow truck drivers, in connection with an organized crime investigation.

On Drewry Drive in North York, the fire spread to the garage and home of the truck's owner. No one was injured. (Jeremy Cohn/CBC)

Deputy Chief James Reymer said some tow trucks smashed through the front of a jeweller store and guns were fired. He said officers seized guns from tow truck operators who were prepared to shoot other drivers over territory.

In Monday morning's incident on Drewry Avenue in North York, the fire spread to an adjacent home and garage. Everyone inside the house was able to get out safely and no injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, Peel police say the two vehicle fires there are being treated as suspicious. They were reported to police shortly before 5 a.m.

The car and pick-up truck were parked beside each other in the parking lot of an apartment building near Central Parkway E. and Rathburn Road in Mississauga.

No injures were reported from the various tow truck fires. (Paul Smith/CBC)

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