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Thursday's fire was ninth in last three months at rural properties

Eight of the nine occurred at vacant properties within a 10-minute drive of Guelph

GUELPH-ERAMOSA TOWNSHIP – A fire that destroyed a historic former mill just east of Guelph Thursday was the ninth unexplained fire at rural properties in the past three months.

Eight of the nine were at vacant or abandoned buildings. The other was at a working sawmill in Belwood.

Thursday's fire destroyed the Hartop Mill located on Evert Road in the village of Everton, just south of Wellington Road 124 east of Guelph.

Several fire departments from the area were called in to fight the fire, which was reported at around 3:15 a.m.

OPP spokesperson Cheri Rockefeller said there weren't believed to be any injuries in the fire and that the cause was unknown at this time.

The mill was on property owned by the Grand River Conservation Area, adjacent to a scout camp. It was boarded up and was surrounded by a fence to keep people out. It was built sometime in the mid to late 1800s by James Hartop, who operated several mills in the area.

"It's kind of scary really," said a nearby resident out walking their dog who asked that their name not be used.

"There's been a whole bunch of fires in the country lately and it's scary to think someone is running around setting fire to stuff," the man said.

Thursday afternoon saw Wellington County OPP, OPP Forensic Identification Services Unit (FISU), Guelph-Eramosa Fire Department and the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal all on scene.

An excavator had to be brought in to lift some of the rubble so hot spots could be extinguished and further investigation done.

An OPP investigator used a drone to fly over the scene as burned timbers and other debris were peeled back.

The previous eight fires were:

- Jan. 16: a fire at an abandoned stone farmhouse on 6th line Nassagawaya, just two kilometres south of the Jan. 9 fire.

- Jan. 9: An empty house and large shed on County Road 7, just east of Rockwood, were destroyed.

- Dec. 5: A boarded up former woodworking shop located at 604 Silvercreek Parkway N. just north of Woodlawn Road:

- Dec. 5: A barn no longer in use at 7070 Fife Rd. roughly 1 km west of the city.

- Nov. 16: A fire at a lumber yard in Belwood.

- Oct. 28: An empty farm house on Arkell Road, 5 km outside Guelph.

- Oct. 19: Empty farmhouse on Third Line in Puslinch Township.

- Oct. 14: Empty farmhouse on Third Line in Puslinch Township.

Any person with information regarding this incident should contact the Wellington County OPP at 1-888-310-1122.