A fire that destroyed the pioneer St. Georges Museum last Saturday has been confirmed as arson, according to RCMP.
And the news has shocked local museum volunteers.
"It’s a lot harder to take when it’s intentional because you have to wonder why," said Le Musee St.-Georges secretary-treasurer Diane Dube. "The founding families are heartbroken. It’s all their hard work and collectables. The memories they still have but…
"When it’s arson it’s disbelief," Dube added. "Who would burn down a museum? If it had been neglect or we failed to do something that would be sad. (But) I think a lot of people in the community are shaking their heads."
However, Dube did acknowledge that rumours had been swirling around the community of about 500, located off Highway 11 near Pine Falls, that foul play may have been involved.
"There was no doubt in my mind it wasn’t electrical," Dube said. "Everything was fine."
In fact, Dube had been in the main museum building on the Friday prior to the fire doing inventory. Artifacts included desks from old schools, mannequins displaying dress of the day and exhibits recreating an old general school and kitchen.
Now? "There’s not very much left," she said, adding that volunteers will be holding a salvage workshop next week.
Damage estimated at $500K
In announcing the arson confirmation, RCMP did not release further details as to whether any suspects had been identified or how the fire was started.
The incident is still under investigation.
Witnesses first reported flames shooting six metres into the air shortly after 3:30 a.m. last Saturday morning. The centre building of the three museum buildings was fully engulfed when police officers arrived at the scene. The other two buildings sustained water and smoke damage.
The fire was put out by the local fire department.
The museum was officially opened on Manitoba’s centenary in 1970.
Museum officials have estimated the damage, which has yet to be fully ascertained, to be at least $500,000.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Powerview RCMP at 204-367-8728, or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477, submit a secure tip online at www.manitobacrimestoppers.com or text "TIPMAN" plus your message to CRIMES (274637).