Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews respond to a fire at Brechin Elementary School April 3. Police are investigating eight suspicious small fires that have occurred at the school this month. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo RCMP probe eight fires at Brechin Elementary School

Police say fires appear to have been set intentionally

Police are probing a series of fires they believe were intentionally set at a central Nanaimo elementary school.

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating upwards of eight small fires were all set earlier this month at Brechin Elementary School, located on Millstone Avenue.

According to the RCMP, the most significant fire occurred on April 3, when Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews responded to a smoke alarm activation and found the basement of the school filled with smoke. Water that was used to douse the fire and that came from sprinklers, which were triggered as a result of the smoke, forced the school to be evacuated and caused an estimated $5,000 damage.

During the following two weeks, seven other incidents of paper and pieces of clothing have been found burned on the school property, police said. In one incident, a wad of toilet paper was set alight.

None of the subsequent fires caused damage and no one was injured in any of the fires at the school.

“These fires are very troubling and have caused the school to hire extra security to patrol the school and grounds after hours,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

O’Brien said only the two fires that occurred inside the building happened during school hours.

The Nanaimo RCMP School Liaison Unit is conducting the ongoing investigation in conjunction with Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire and loss prevent investigators and Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district.

“I can tell you that of the seven or eight fires the one, of course, that was started in the basement of Brechin elementary is the most concerning,” said Scott Saywell, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district superintendent.

He said incidents like this rarely happen in elementary schools, which makes these incidents even more concerning.

“It’s certainly concerning inside the school during a school day … Some community members let us know that kids were lighting paper on fire or articles of clothing one evening,” Saywell said. “That’s a tight community that is surrounding Brechin elementary, so I certainly appreciate the community’s vigilance in bringing it to our attention and the RCMP as well.”

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP’s non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 and quote file No. 2019-11585. To remain anonymous contact Crime Stoppers at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com or call 1-800-222-9477.



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