Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RCMP investigating rash of arsons on flood-swamped First Nation

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RCMP have launched an arson investigation after four houses were torched in the last two weeks on the flood-swamped Lake St. Martin First Nation.

Two house fires were reported to RCMP in Gypsumville on Sept. 30. Two days later, two other houses were reported burned to the ground.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner is working with the RCMP on the investigation.

"We are investigating nine fires and four have been confirmed as arson," RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said. "Our investigation continues and there have been no arrests."

Investigators discovered another five homes reduced to rubble after a tour of the First Nation, located about 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg, last week. All five houses had been burned to the ground, but investigators reported they'd been subsequently bulldozed.

"They appear to have been burnt some months ago," Karpish said.

Finding a cause for those five fires could prove to be impossible, the spokeswoman said.

Hundreds of residents of Lake St. Martin were forced from their homes in May 2011 and have been unable to go home. Chronic flooding over several years left most homes uninhabitable and the ground saturated.

After nearly two years of land deals that fell through at the last minute, representatives for the federal and provincial governments and Lake St. Martin announced in May residents had a new place to live. Since then, there appear to have been few developments in the resettlement plan and no announcements on when residents can expect to return home.

The new site, a combination of provincial Crown land and land purchased from two farming families, sits next to the existing reserve but on slightly higher ground.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A9

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