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Fire at old Lamford sawmill deliberately set, fire chief says

An accelerant was used to set a pickup truck ablaze on an old sawmill property in Sooke on Monday night, prompting concern after a rash of suspicious fires in the capital region.

An accelerant was used to set a pickup truck ablaze on an old sawmill property in Sooke on Monday night, prompting concern after a rash of suspicious fires in the capital region.

Sooke Fire Chief Steve Sorensen said the fire at the old Lamford Forest Products sawmill was deliberately set in a pickup truck and spread to a nearby truck-based crane. RCMP are investigating.

The blaze came the same day as four other suspicious fires in the capital region, including several along the Trans-Canada Highway.

“Any arson fire causes us concern,” Sorensen said.

“But given how dry as it is and the other three fires set along the Trans-Canada the same day, [it] certainly gives us an added measure of concern.”

Fire crews were called about 9:30 p.m. to what was thought to be an abandoned camp fire only to find a huge column of black smoke and the truck and crane on fire, Sorensen said.

At least eight tires were also burning. The damage to the crane is estimated to be about $10,000, he said. The blaze produced toxic smoke, given the oil and hydraulic fluid related to the crane and burning tires.

“High winds helped fan the flames,” Sorensen said. “Fortunately, the wind was blowing away from the old minesweeper that is moored adjacent to the site.”

The wooden ship, once used to drag a body of water in order to remove or destroy enemy mines, is owned by a local business and has been in the area for years, Sorensen said.

Several other fires were reported in the region on Monday.

Saanich firefighters responded to a structure fire on Ardersier Road at 3 a.m., soon after putting out a small grass fire nearby. In the afternoon, three brush fires along the Trans-Canada Highway gridlocked traffic and tied up four fire departments.

Investigators have deemed all the fires suspicious, but did not say whether they believe they are linked.

Sorensen said it seems unlikely that the Saanich or West Shore fires are connected with the one in Sooke, but investigators will examine all possibilities.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Amy Smart