An Ontario fire marshal investigator and the Ontario Provincial Police are looking into a fire that gutted criminal defence lawyer Stacy Tijerina’s law office in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The fire broke out at the Blue Heron industrial complex at 485B Gran St. on Batchewana First Nation land at approximately 12:30 a.m. on May 14. Tijerina’s law office was in the one-storey complex.
The blaze follows a string of fire incidents affecting the city’s legal community in recent months.
According to OPP Const. Monique Baker, the fire mainly affected Tijerina’s law office and caused an estimated $150,000 in damages to the building’s interior.
Police consider the fire suspicious and the fire marshal investigator has taken samples from the scene for examination.
“The fire marshal is currently conducting an investigation,” says Baker. “No injuries were reported.”
The Batchewana First Nation Police Service is also assisting in the investigation.
Tijerina couldn’t be reached for comment by press time last week. An Ontario fire marshal investigator has yet to determine the cause of the fire.
The fire is the third to occur at a law or police office in Sault Ste. Marie in the past year.
In May 2011, an arsonist was believed to have set fire to Sault Ste. Marie lawyer Ken Walker’s office on Wellington Street East.
According to an OPP press release, a man ran from the scene, but there have been no arrests.
But a look at Sault Ste. Marie police reports shows the fire was one of many that occurred in the city’s downtown last year.
During the course of one week in May, there were eight suspicious fires in Sault Ste. Marie’s downtown core. The fire to Walker’s law firm was on that list.
Then in August 2011, the provincial courthouse on Queen Street East closed down for seven months. A fire caused significant damage to an office in the east
section of the basement level where police offices were located.
According to the OPP, fire services responded to the 426 Queen St. E. location at 3:45 a.m. An investigation by the fire marshal put the cause of the fire as “undetermined.”
Sault Ste. Marie isn’t the only area of the province to experience suspicious fires at law firms in recent months. Halton police, for example, investigated a fire that caused extensive damage to Oakville, Ont., law firm Will Davidson LLP in March.
The fire broke out at 1464 Cornwall Rd. during the evening of March 19. It caused roughly $500,000 in damage to the building complex where Will Davidson was located.
Although police didn’t suspect foul play at the time, the arson unit investigated the blaze and considered the time of day when it occurred, 8:09 p.m., to be suspicious. The firm now lists its office in the area as 2070 Hadwen Rd. in Mississauga, Ont.
Meanwhile, police in Sault Ste. Marie are also investigating more than a dozen suspicious fires that cropped up over three days during the week of May 14, according to OPP press releases.
According to the release, Sault Ste. Marie police are searching for an unidentified person of interest. They believe the suspect may have set five small fires in the Flour Mill area of the city this month.
It’s not clear if there are any connections between the fires at the Sault Ste. Marie law offices and the courthouse as the OPP, the fire marshal, and the Batchewana First Nation police continue to investigate, says Batchewana police Sgt. Doug Sewell.
“We haven’t heard anything back yet from the fire marshal,” he notes.
“They are still investigating at this point.”
OPP Det. Staff Sgt. Sean Sparling says the arsons have been a concern for the public for the last year and notes information from residents has played a crucial role in the ongoing investigations.