The old farmhouse and yard at 5413 Township Road 3 a few kilometers west of Guelph must have been a very quaint home at one time.
Tucked away in a low-lying area, sheltered from the elements by tall trees, and with a small creek running through the property, its limestone house held strong heritage characteristics. It would be over 100 years old.
Now, it is a burned out shell – a few stone walls, a carved in roof, the stink of charred wood and furnishings hanging around the place. The property has long been vacant, owned by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Recently, only the barn was being used for hay storage.
The house is one of 14 vacant property fires currently under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police in the Wellington County, the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and local fire departments. While the causes of the fires remain under investigation, all are considered suspicious.
Four of the fires have been added to the list since last Friday, including the Township Road 3 blaze that gutted the house and barn, a shed fire nearby on Highway 7, and a pair of basement fires in vacant and boarded up houses on Ross Street in Elora. The rash started back in October of last year.
Const. Bob Bortolato, spokesperson for the County of Wellington OPP, said the fires have been deemed suspicious because of the time of day in which they happened, the locale of the properties, and the fact that some of the properties didn’t have electricity running to them.
“All of that creates some concern about how these fires were started,” he said. “That’s why we can deem them suspicious until we find out otherwise.”
Last Friday, after firefighters had battled the two fires west of Guelph, OPP released information indicating it’s believed that two people were involved in deliberately setting Friday’s fires. A vehicle was spotted leaving one of the locations.
Bortolato declined to discuss details of the evidence that has been gathered so far. He also would not speculate on the psychological profile of the person or persons responsible for the fires.
“We investigate each fire independently, and we do look at all information and evidence that we have,” he added. “And we are trying to see if there are links between the fires.”
He said it is sad to see buildings that have a history be destroyed by fire.