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High profile fires not an indication of fire bug:


The rash of noticeable fires does not mean The Pas has a fire bug in its midst.
That was the message from Chief Fire Prevention Officer Randy Manych last week after speaking with the Opasquia Times.
In recent months there have been several high profile fires in the area, including one fire which claimed the lives of two people in the R.M. of Kelsey. Manych stated while there have been some fires which do point towards arson most fires are accidental in nature and there is no pattern indicating anyone is responsible for multiple fires.
“If we do a comparison from year to year to year we’re actually at less calls, which naturally doesn’t mean less fires, but less calls which means you’ve had less incidents of us responding,” noted Manych, referring to the number of calls The Pas Fire Department has responded to since the start of 2017 in comparison with past years.
As of last week the department had 10 fewer calls this year than in 2016.
It’s not the frequency of calls which has drawn public attention to the issue however; rather it is the types of calls being responded to. This year alone there have been several house fires and garage fires, as well as a high-profile burning of rail ties in the middle of town. That fire was reportedly valued at $1 million according to a police report on the incident and prompted parent company Omnitrax is offer up a reward for information that has grown to $10,000.
“I think what draws a lot of attention is (for example) the huge HBR fire which that is out of the Town’s hand... Who thinks that someone is going to go lit 12,000 railroad ties on fire,” asked Manych.
Manych however did admit he understands the concern people may have.
“Yes, you get the concern when you hear we had two deaths in a house, we had a couple of garages going up you start to think what the hell is going on in town, what’s with all these fires,” said Manych. “There’s no pattern, there’s nothing saying we have a fire bug.”
The early spring is typically a busy time for the fire department. Dry conditions and tall grass left over from the year before is fertile grounds for grass fires, something is both frequently set and also commonly starts naturally, whether from a spark from a passing train or from an ATV. The fire department also does burns themselves to proactively put out potential hotspots.
Since March there have been 13 fires the fire department has responded too, including the most recent one which at least partially destroyed one of the apartment buildings inside the Kelsey Estates. Of those three were grass fires -one set by the fire department itself- one was a chimney fire, one was a kitchen fire and another was a tractor trailer which caught on fire north of town on Highway 10. Another was a small fire set by what is believed to be street people to keep warm and called in by police, a fire so small Manych stated it could have been put out by stepping on it.
Of the remaining fires there have been explanations, including electrical, in some cases, leaving the actual number of fires where it is suspected foul play was involved as being quite minor. The fire at the Kelsey Estates has not had a final determination made on it but Manych noted the investigation is leaning towards accidental.
“Should other people in town be concerned that their property is next? No, there’s nothing indicating there’s trouble,” said Manych. “We don’t have anything indicating that we have an arsonist going around starting fires in different locations.”
Where people should be concerned is with the costs to fight the fires. The payroll for firefighters in March was $3,800; that number jumps to $11,300 for April and May also figures to be a costly month with a garage fire and the Kelsey Estates blaze prompting a large response and several hours of work.

Trent Allen