Saanich News

Tree arson a close call for seniors' apartment

Saanich police are on the hunt for a group of young teen boys suspected of igniting a tree growing against a wood-framed seniors apartment building.

Calls poured in to 911 around 4 p.m. today as witnesses saw a tree on fire and a group of four to five young males, thought to be 13 to 15 years old, run off from Rosebank Manor at the corner of McKenzie Avenue and Cedar Hill Road.

The four-storey building at 3954 Cedar Hill Rd. wasn't damaged thanks to a quick response from the Saanich fire department. A good Samaritan passing by pulled the fire alarm and about a 100 elderly residents evacuated the building.

Police don't have a description of the suspects, but are asking parents to come forward if they think their child was involved.

"We're asking parents if they have a kid that came in tonight that possibly smells like smoke or if they see chatter on Facebook about 'little Billy' setting a bush on fire, to contact us," said Det.-Sgt. John Price with Saanich police.

Price said investigators want to determine the motives of the person or persons who lit the fire – if it was a prank that veered out of control or if it was a premeditated, deliberate arson.

"We are looking to ID the motive. If it's goofing off or if there's a history of fire setting," Price said. "We want to provide the resources to the person and the family (to get help) and educate the (the suspect) to the seriousness of their actions."

The manicured 14-foot tree with a 10 foot diameter base in plain view of Cedar Hill Road, was burnt to a crisp. Based on witness reports of the teens running away, Price said the dense bushy tree likely ignited into flames much faster than the suspects expected.

"The bush was sited right against the building, full of people's grandparents," Price said. "This had the potential to be much more serious."

Anyone with information on this arson can call Saanich police at 250-475-4321 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

editor@saanichnews.com

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