Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fire that gutted rural pioneer museum an arson, RCMP confirm

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A fire that destroyed St. Georges' pioneer museum last Saturday has been confirmed as arson, RCMP said Friday.

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 Musée St.-Georges secretary-treasurer Diane Dubé. "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," Dubé 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."

Dubé acknowledged 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," Dubé said. "Everything was fine."

In fact, Dubé had been in the main museum building on the Friday prior to the fire doing inventory. Artifacts included desks from old schools, mannequins displaying the dress of the day and exhibits recreating an old general school and kitchen.

Now? "There's not very much left," she said, adding volunteers will be holding a salvage workshop next week.

In announcing the arson confirmation, RCMP did not release further details on the fire. The incident is still under investigation.

Witnesses first reported flames shooting six metres into the sky shortly after 3:30 a.m. last Saturday. The centre building of the three museum buildings was fully engulfed when police officers arrived at the scene.

Anyone with information about the arson is asked to call Powerview RCMP at 204-367-8728, or 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).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2014 A9

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