Arson suspected in Drouillard Road fire

Police suspect a fire that destroyed the vacant Whiski-Jacks bar on Drouillard Road in Windsor's Ford City area on Tuesday morning was set on purpose.

 Police suspect a fire that destroyed the vacant Whiski-Jacks bar on Drouillard Road in Windsor's Ford City area on Tuesday morning was set on purpose.

The Windsor Police Arson Unit is investigating the blaze, police said in a release on Tuesday afternoon. Investigators found a witness who claimed to have seen two white males in the alley behind the bar. Minutes later, smoke was seen coming from the building, police said.

Staff-Sgt. Gerry Corriveau, an arson investigator with Windsor Police, said there was no hydro or utility service going into the building.

"There's no natural cause for this fire," Corriveau said.

Garry Dugal, a spokesperson for the Ford City Residents in Action Committee, said he's concerned about all the abandoned buildings in the area. He wants the city to take down abandoned buildings to prevent mischievous activity and potential injury to residents.

He's worried that the suspects are stealing copper from the abandoned buildings and setting them on fire to cover their tracks, and he'd like more communication with police on what they're doing to catch the suspects.

Police spokesperson Sgt. Brett Corey said there have been three other arson cases in the Drouillard Road area since January, but Corriveau wasn't ready to label the suspicious Drouillard fires serial arson.

"There's nothing that leads our arson investigators to link them all, as in a serial arsonist loosed in the neighbourhood. We have no concern about that," said Corriveau. "We've had a number of major fires that have occurred in our community this year. I think it's a bit of a statistical anomaly."

Corriveau said one of the other suspicious cases did involve stolen copper, but he believed the ensuing fire was started accidentally, as a result of trying to get at the copper. All of the suspicious fires in the Drouillard area remain unsolved, Corriveau said.

Police have also been investigating two large fires at a Walker Road business and an Ouellette Avenue restaurant since January.

Corriveau said the fact that this is a fourth suspicious fire in Ford City will likely mean that police will start stepping up patrols in the area. He said the best thing residents can do is look out for each other and call police if they see something suspicious.

Anyone with information on the incident was being asked to call the Arson unit at 519-255-6700 extension 4325 or Crime Stoppers at 519-258-TIPS.

3 firefighters injured

Acting district fire chief Terry Gifford said when crews arrived at the scene just after 1:30 a.m., smoke was coming out of every window and the roofline.

"They tried to gain entry but it was very strongly secured. It took a while to get in. By that time it was pretty well involved," Gifford said.

At one point the fire was so intense, 36 firefighters were on scene.

"Some of the firefighters actually had their helmets melting," Gifford said.

Crews then took a defensive stance outside the bar, which has been closed for the past year. By 8 a.m., crews were hosing down the remaining hot spots.

Three firefighters sustained minor injuries.

Gifford said Drouillard Road between Ontario and Seminole Streets would remain closed for most of the day.

The damage from Tuesday's fire was estimated to be $250,000.