Four police cars, ambulance destroyed in fire at BC Interior hotel

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Four police cars, ambulance destroyed in fire at BC Interior hotel
Four police cars, ambulance destroyed in fire at BC Interior hotel

While not directly targeted by the arson, Coastal GasLink parent company TC Energy said it is concerned and is thankful no one was hurt.

Eight vehicles, including marked RCMP SUVs, were torched early Wednesday outside a hotel in Smithers, not far from Coastal GasLink pipeline construction.

RCMP say the fire was “a targeted attack on emergency services vehicles.”

The vehicles were in a parking lot outside the Sunshine Inn when they were apparently set ablaze at about 4:30 a.m. Smithers RCMP were called to help the local fire department at the hotel in the 3800 block of 4th Avenue.

Fire crews and officers were able to get the fire under control, but not before eight vehicles — including four RCMP vehicles and a B.C. Ambulance — were damaged or destroyed.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire, which is the most important thing,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson in a statement.

“This appears to be a targeted attack on emergency services vehicles. Preliminary investigation indicates this is an arson and we are asking for the public’s assistance in providing information so that the person or persons involved may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill said the arson is “horrifying” and urged everyone to let the RCMP do their job.

“I am very disturbed about the fires in Smithers this morning that destroyed several vehicles,” said Atrill in a statement, noting that “knowing this was deliberately set is horrifying.

“With the apparent targeting of vehicles in a hotel parking lot, it could have been so much worse if the fire had spread to the adjacent buildings. At this point there are no suspects and the police are looking for witnesses and any possible video of the incident.”

While not directly targeted by the arson, Coastal GasLink parent company TC Energy said it is concerned and is thankful no one was hurt.

“Whatever the motivation, these types of attacks, including today’s, have no place in Canada. Our top priority remains the safety of those in the area, including our workforce, contractors and Indigenous and local community members.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced security measures at our worksites in the area.”

Etienne St-Onge, a refrigeration mechanic in Smithers who took photos of the aftermath on Wednesday morning, said the arsons are part of a pattern of violence that ramped up in the past year.

“There’s a rising level of crime that is pretty outrageous right now,” he said, saying one of his company vehicles was recently torched in a similar incident.

“It’s starting to get a little bit embarrassing. We’re living in a place right now where Smithers is losing control.

“I’m one of hundreds of those stories,” he said, adding police incidents like this are happening maybe three or four times a week.

He said a Facebook group was launched specifically because crime seems to be escalating out of control, and many citizens of Smithers have gone to police, MPs and other politicians pleading for help.

“They’re getting flooded with requests to fix a system that’s really broken right now,” said St-Onge.

The suspicious fires happened in an area where work is underway on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a project that has been met by violent vandalism in the past.

A group of about 20 people, some carrying axes, vandalized an active construction site in February near Houston, doing millions of dollars in damage. RCMP characterized it as a co-ordinated attack.

Anonymous opponents of Coastal GasLink took responsibility for an arson on a luxury vehicle in Montreal in May outside the home of Michael Fortier, a former federal cabinet minister and vice-chairman of RBC Capital Markets, one of the banks funding the GasLink project.

Coastal GasLink is a 670-kilometre pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat that will deliver natural gas to the Asian market. Construction began in 2019 and has been met with protests and violence. TC Energy said the pipeline is 75 per cent complete.

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