A string of seven fires in her neighbourhood early Wednesday isn’t enough to send Erin McIntyre-Brandt running.
The Furby Street resident said she’s noticed an increase in petty crime in the area since she first moved in six years ago, but she and her neighbours are determined to stay put and help make sure the West End stays a safe place where they can raise their children.
"We’re pretty committed," said McIntyre-Brandt, with five-month-old daughter Ellie cooing in her arms. "I love the diversity of our neighbourhood. And there’s a really good sense of community."
At 2:58 a.m., Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service crews responded to a report of a blaze in the back lane of the 500 block of Furby Street. They soon extinguished a garbage fire.
The second call came at 3:08 a.m., and crews found a two-car garage engulfed in flames on the same block. About 40 minutes later, the fire was declared under control.
Two minutes after that call, WFPS received a report of a fire in a three-storey apartment on the 400 block of Furby (site of a fire earlier this month). The building was evacuated, and the fire was under control by 3:30 a.m.
At 4:14 a.m., crews responded to a garbage fire on the 500 block of McGee Street.
About 10 minutes later, another blaze was reported on the exterior of a home on the 600 block of Agnes Street. Along that same block, crews discovered two more garbage fires.
No injuries were reported. The incidents are considered suspicious and are under investigation by the Winnipeg Police Service.
WFPS Chief John Lane said the fires appeared to be a case of "opportunistic arson."
"There were things there — garbage, mattresses, that sort of thing — that are easily ignited by people passing by, and that's where all of these fires originated," Lane told reporters Wednesday. "It’s just an invitation for idle hands to set those on fire."
Luis Santos lost the garage of his Furby Street rental house to one of the fires. The home was recently boarded up, after a police raid in June that resulted in the arrests of four people for charges related to creating improvised firearms.
Santos said he’s noticed more fires in the area over the last month — an observation echoed by Lane.
The fire chief said rates of this type of arson always increase in the spring and summer months. He said it was unclear whether there was more than one perpetrator involved Wednesday.
"Whether it’s an individual that has that propensity, or whether it’s simply maliciousness on the part of a few individuals for a short period of time, it’s very difficult to tell," Lane said.
McIntyre-Brandt said she wants Ellie to grow up in the West End, but their future there has gotten harder to picture.
"It’s worrisome, and we have safety concerns," she said. "We love our neighbourhood, but it’s been really difficult recently."
Updated on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 6:06 PM CDT: Adds photos
6:15 PM: Updates photo.