Calgary home destroyed by fire is second target of suspected arsonist, police say
A family of five in Calgary is in shock after their home was engulfed in flames early Saturday morning.
“[I’m] grateful that my family is alive, but a little distraught,” said Rhonda Gravel, who escaped the fire with her husband Remi, their daughter and two sons.
Calgary police said in a statement they are looking for a man they believe is linked to the fire that destroyed the family home in the northwest neighborhood of Varsity.
Police believe this same man is linked to another suspected arson attack that occurred in this neighborhood on May 18.
At around 5 a.m. Saturday, firefighters were called to the house fire in the 1200 block of Varsity Estates Road after a neighbor called 911 reporting smoke and noise coming from the garage, said the Calgary Fire Department in a statement.
Rhonda and Remi said they were woken up by their daughter after she came downstairs. She had heard noises coming from the garage and seen flames.
“She screamed that there was a fire and ran upstairs. And by the time she got to our door, we kind of heard her and she was screaming, ‘Our house is on fire,'” a said Rhonda.
The couple quickly woke up their sons and took their children to their neighbor’s house, Rémi said.
“When we got to the side of the house, we could see that the front of the garage was already completely engulfed in flames by then,” Rhonda said.
Rémi was able to leave to pick up some belongings as well as the family cat.
“Everyone is out and we’re just trying to figure out what happened now,” he said.
This is the third residential structure fire to which the fire department has been called in less than 24 hours in the city, along with two separate fires that occurred earlier in the Evanston neighborhood.
According to firefighters, upon arrival, crews found the two-story single-family home entirely engulfed in flames and smoke.
“An aggressive fire attack was unleashed,” they said. “The Source House has been significantly damaged by fire and will be uninhabitable.”
In addition to the Gravel family, two other people living in the neighboring house on the left were also safely evacuated, firefighters said.
Officials say some neighbors will be temporarily relocated.
Fire crews remained at the scene Saturday to manage hot spots and monitor air quality before allowing nearby residents to return. Alberta Health Services were also on the scene.
No injuries were reported.
Calgary police said in an emailed statement Saturday afternoon that they are asking the public for help in identifying a man they believe is connected to this fire, as well as a man two years ago. and a half weeks in the 1100 block of Varsity Estates. Drive NW
Police say CCTV footage collected from the first fire shows a man setting fire to a rear hangar before taking off. The fire then spread to the house and garage.
In both cases, police said the suspect was driving around before the fires started.
“We are grateful that no one was injured as a result of these fires, however, it is deeply concerning that fires are being set in or near residential homes while residents are home and often asleep,” he said. Calgary police said in a statement.
Police said there was no indication the incidents were targeted and the motive was unknown.
“It is extremely important that we identify and locate the person we believe to be linked to these events.”
Police describe the suspect as between 20 and 30 years old, fair-skinned and clean-shaven. They say he was seen carrying a black backpack and wearing a hat.
Police recommend residents keep their exterior lights on, secure their garages and sheds, and call 911 if they spot the suspect.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.