Police have counted about 20 fires in the Fort Rouge area over the past three months, but what they haven't determined is whether the fires are connected, perhaps started by many arsonists or a single, serial arsonist.

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Keith Juskow stands in his garage, which was set on fire on the night of June 17. 'There seemed to be intent to do major damage,' he said.

HADAS PARUSH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Keith Juskow stands in his garage, which was set on fire on the night of June 17. 'There seemed to be intent to do major damage,' he said.

Police have counted about 20 fires in the Fort Rouge area over the past three months, but what they haven't determined is whether the fires are connected, perhaps started by many arsonists or a single, serial arsonist.

"There is definitely some aspects of some of these investigations that we are looking to see if there is any linkage," Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Natalie Aitken said Wednesday. "We don't have anyone in custody at this time for any of the fires."

The investigation now includes about 20 fires, she said.

"There are a lot of similarities between some of them, but whether or not at this time going forward we can link any of them, that's not something that we're prepared to do."

982 Mulvey Ave.

982 Mulvey Ave.

Aitken said police are looking for reports of "any unusual behaviour, any unusual persons" at the scenes of the fires, and at the same time, are exploring the possibility of having cadets patrol the area.

"(The fires) seem to be occurring in the early morning hours, so between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m., so that would be a particular time that we would encourage anyone who observes anything suspicious within their area to contact police," she said.

Area resident Keith Juskow said there's no doubt in his mind the fires are the work of a person bent on destruction.

Juskow said he's seriously concerned about the frame of mind of a person who lit a fire inside his garage June 17, kicking a hole in the wall and then setting garbage bags placed inside alight.

"It can't be a personal attack against me, because I don't know anybody here," said Juskow, who moved into the city in November and lives in the 900 block of Fleet Avenue.

801 Fleet Ave.

801 Fleet Ave.

"What struck me about the experience was how far they went to try to burn down a stranger's garage. It wasn't just fun, it wasn't seeing fire," he said. "There seemed to be intent to do major damage. It's not just kids out having fun anymore."

According to Juskow, the nature of the fire indicates the person responsible is "ramping up" or "escalating."

"There was no chance it was accidental -- zero," he said.

Police aren't releasing the locations of fires, but the Free Press has collected reports of 13 blazes, on Lorette Avenue, Fleet Avenue, Dudley Avenue, Hector Avenue, Garwood Avenue and Scotland Avenue.

Paul Hesse, the Liberal candidate for Fort Rouge in the upcoming provincial election, said the problem appears to be getting worse.

702 Scotland Ave.

702 Scotland Ave.

He's collected information from some area residents affected by arsons and said people are troubled.

"These are repeated occurrences in a small area, often at the same time of night," Hesse said.

"I want to see police cadets or similar sort of police action during this high-risk period."

Neighbours have also talked of forming watch patrols, with pairs moving through back lanes at night to scare off possible arsonists.

A fire in the 800 block of Hector Avenue shortly after midnight Tuesday killed a dog and two cats, and an inhabitant of the house felt she was lucky to be alive.

The blaze destroyed a house and garage and damaged four other properties, causing an estimated $274,000 damage.

The heat from that fire melted the plastic siding on the sunroom of a nearby home.

"It's the scariest moment of my life," one woman said as she watched firefighters on Hector fight flames that shot higher than nearby trees.

"Why haven't these people been caught? Burning peoples' property, with no motive," she said.

"It's disgusting. Something needs to be done."

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

 

Confirmed fire locations: