Top News

Community of Joggins under shadow of suspicious fires


JOGGINS – An unsettling night of house fires turned into an uneasy morning in the small community of Joggins, which overlooks the Bay of Fundy.

The events of last night are still hard to believe. Six structure fires, five of them burned to the ground. Ten departments responding and only one reasonable conclusion: someone is targeting the community.

This isn’t the first rash of fires in the community. In fact, just earlier this week Crime Stoppers issued a press release looking for information into a fire that took place in the community in October, and even that wasn’t the last suspicious fire to happen. In April, another structure fire of an abandoned building needed five departments to bring the blaze under control, and that came just two weeks after another empty building caught fire under suspicious circumstances.

Everything up until now, however, has been doled out slowly.

Late Tuesday evening, three vacant homes were set ablaze, then a garage and then later a vacant community hall. It was as the hall burned it became evident nothing is sacred: the fire spread to the neighbouring United Church, which held service every Sunday.

Nova Scotia Power cut the electricity to parts of the community to protect firefighters, throwing neigbourhoods into a darkness only illuminated by the flashing red lights of fire trucks and the orange glow of the fires.

By morning the fires were out, but the rubble was not the only thing smoldering in the community. Residents here, many of whom live beside still-vacant homes or neighbour the scene of previous fires, are not only shaken, they’re mad.

Amber Vance lives beside one such pile of rubble that burnt under suspicious circumstance. Across the street, the remains of the Orange Hall are still smoldering and the United Church is decked in yellow security tape. From her backyard she can see the wreck of a third building long since destroyed by fire.

“I’m surprised I have a house,” she says.

She and her neighbour, Bev McIssac, are separated by yet another vacant building, something neither of them are particularly happy about anymore.

“I hope they bulldoze it down,” McIssac said. “They got to do something. It’s getting pretty scary, boy.”

Up until now it only seems to be vacant buildings mysteriously catching fire under suspicious circumstances, but as one of the other members of the community drives up to survey the scene she echoes a sentiment long shared in the community.

“They got to do something about this. Someone’s going to get killed.”

One responding firefighter from the River Hebert Fire Department received non-life threatening injuries during the evening. 

Laurie Melanson is Joggins’ fire chief and runs the local restaurant. The sign outside reads Bayview Restaurant and then beneath that in brackets ‘Margie’s.’ It’s a personal touch the community understands, and last night was very personal for the chief, clearly tired from a long night of volunteer work.

“There’s no way to describe it. There’s no need of it,” Melanson said.

Melanson reported 10 departments worked through the night fighting the fires, including Joggins, River Hebert, Advocate, FPW (Port Greville), Parrsboro, Southampton, Amherst, Springhill, Leicester and Truemanville, while Oxford provided coverage to the Springhill area during the period. Most departments had left the scene by 4:30 a.m.

Melanson deferred further questions to Cumberland RCMP, who are actively investigating the matter.

“There’s been too many coincidences for too long,” Staff Sgt. Allen Carroll said.

Contrary to rumour, Carroll reported there were no arrests following last night’s fires but the matter is under investigation and information has been coming in.

“Obviously there are leads we are working on and we are following up on all leads,” Carroll said. “Anyone with any information should contact police immediately and if they are not comfortable with doing that they can call Crime Stoppers.”

Cumberland RCMP can be reached by calling 902-667-3859. Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers can be reached toll free at 1-800-222-TIPS.

The events of last night are still hard to believe. Six structure fires, five of them burned to the ground. Ten departments responding and only one reasonable conclusion: someone is targeting the community.

This isn’t the first rash of fires in the community. In fact, just earlier this week Crime Stoppers issued a press release looking for information into a fire that took place in the community in October, and even that wasn’t the last suspicious fire to happen. In April, another structure fire of an abandoned building needed five departments to bring the blaze under control, and that came just two weeks after another empty building caught fire under suspicious circumstances.

Everything up until now, however, has been doled out slowly.

Late Tuesday evening, three vacant homes were set ablaze, then a garage and then later a vacant community hall. It was as the hall burned it became evident nothing is sacred: the fire spread to the neighbouring United Church, which held service every Sunday.

Nova Scotia Power cut the electricity to parts of the community to protect firefighters, throwing neigbourhoods into a darkness only illuminated by the flashing red lights of fire trucks and the orange glow of the fires.

By morning the fires were out, but the rubble was not the only thing smoldering in the community. Residents here, many of whom live beside still-vacant homes or neighbour the scene of previous fires, are not only shaken, they’re mad.

Amber Vance lives beside one such pile of rubble that burnt under suspicious circumstance. Across the street, the remains of the Orange Hall are still smoldering and the United Church is decked in yellow security tape. From her backyard she can see the wreck of a third building long since destroyed by fire.

“I’m surprised I have a house,” she says.

She and her neighbour, Bev McIssac, are separated by yet another vacant building, something neither of them are particularly happy about anymore.

“I hope they bulldoze it down,” McIssac said. “They got to do something. It’s getting pretty scary, boy.”

Up until now it only seems to be vacant buildings mysteriously catching fire under suspicious circumstances, but as one of the other members of the community drives up to survey the scene she echoes a sentiment long shared in the community.

“They got to do something about this. Someone’s going to get killed.”

One responding firefighter from the River Hebert Fire Department received non-life threatening injuries during the evening. 

Laurie Melanson is Joggins’ fire chief and runs the local restaurant. The sign outside reads Bayview Restaurant and then beneath that in brackets ‘Margie’s.’ It’s a personal touch the community understands, and last night was very personal for the chief, clearly tired from a long night of volunteer work.

“There’s no way to describe it. There’s no need of it,” Melanson said.

Melanson reported 10 departments worked through the night fighting the fires, including Joggins, River Hebert, Advocate, FPW (Port Greville), Parrsboro, Southampton, Amherst, Springhill, Leicester and Truemanville, while Oxford provided coverage to the Springhill area during the period. Most departments had left the scene by 4:30 a.m.

Melanson deferred further questions to Cumberland RCMP, who are actively investigating the matter.

“There’s been too many coincidences for too long,” Staff Sgt. Allen Carroll said.

Contrary to rumour, Carroll reported there were no arrests following last night’s fires but the matter is under investigation and information has been coming in.

“Obviously there are leads we are working on and we are following up on all leads,” Carroll said. “Anyone with any information should contact police immediately and if they are not comfortable with doing that they can call Crime Stoppers.”

Cumberland RCMP can be reached by calling 902-667-3859. Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers can be reached toll free at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Recent Stories