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Abandoned house, barn burn as rash of suspicious fires continues (11 photos, update)

That makes a dozen empty properties that have burned under suspicious circumstances since October

3 p.m. update

Wellington County Ontario Provincial Police issued the following update:

Police located evidence from a scene indicating two people were involved. A vehicle was also observed driving at a high rate of speed northbound on Township Road 3 at the time of the fires. 

Any person with information regarding the fires or the vehicle should contact the Wellington County OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

1 p.m. original story

Smoke in the air, fire on the ground, charred ruins, and exhausted firefighters.

All of that was visible on the western outskirts of Guelph early Friday morning, as two fires, both considered suspicious, burned within about three kilometers of the other. Both involved abandoned properties.

There have now been a dozen such suspicious fires on abandoned properties in the general Guelph-Eramosa area since the fall.

Down Township Road 3, about two kilometres south of Highway 7 and less than three kilometres west of Guelph, about 10 firefighters and several fire vehicles attacked the largest of the two Friday morning fires.

A historic limestone farmhouse and barn within a picturesque rural setting, were destroyed in an early morning blaze. The collapsed shell of the house was no longer burning as of about 10 a.m., but the rubble of the barn in back of it continued to burn.

Officials on the scene said the operation was challenging because of the cold temperatures and strong wind, and due to the fact there were no fire hydrants nearby. Township Road 3 was blocked off from Highway 7 to Wellington Road 30.

To the west, and directly along Highway 7, a second fire had been quickly doused earlier in the morning. An unused storage shelter on the low-lying property was destroyed. It appeared to be empty aside from a few steel drums.

Guelph fire prevention officer Greg Raynard was on the scene of the house and barn fire. He said the Ontario Fire Marshal’s had been contacted, and that an investigation was underway.

Raynard confirmed that both the house and barn were completely destroyed.

“As far as we know at this point they were abandoned,” he said, adding that there were no people or animals present on the property.

A number of suspicious fires are under investigation in the area. The rash of fires began in mid-October, when empty farmhouses on Third Line in Puslinch Township were burned. Later in October an empty farmhouse on Arkell Road was gutted.

Heidi Green’s family lives along Township Road 3, less than a kilometre from the scene of the fire.

“I’m a little bit concerned about all these fires happening,” she said.

She grew up on the road and said the burned out property has been abandoned for some time. It was her understanding that it had been purchase by Province of Ontario as part of plans to expand Highway 7.

“It’s sad to see it burn down, for sure,” Green added.