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Samples from 'suspicious' Barrie fire sent for testing

Blaze has been deemed suspicious, but fire investigator hopes testing will help disprove potential lightning strike

Samples collected at the scene of an Edgehill Drive fire are being sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences today, but it could be months before the results come back, says the fire investigator handling the scene. 

The fire, with estimated damages in the neighbourhood of $2 million, is under investigation by the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) and Barrie police. 

"I would definitely call it suspicious at this point," the OFMEM's Christiian ter Stege told BarrieToday this morning. "The samples are going in today, but it's not a very fast turnaround, to be honest, between fatalities and everything else, so it could be a couple of months to get the results back."

One possibility he's hoping to disprove is a lightning strike. 

"I know that lightning wasn't involved, but I just want to be able to prove that without a doubt as far as that aspect of the investigation," ter Stege said. "It's really not a major part of what's going on here."

OFMEM investigators concluded their on-scene investigation Monday evening and will now wait on sample results. 

In the meantime, city police are conducting a parallel investigation in conjunction with the fire marshal's office. That includes speaking to witnesses and tracking down possible video footage from the neighbourhood, located east of Ferndale Drive. 

"Those are things that are going to be important to any investigation, and certainly with regard to this, given that it happened in the overnight hours," said Peter Leon, communications co-ordinator for Barrie police.

"Suspicious persons or activity that may have been out of the ordinary, or anybody maybe loitering around that site or in the area, those types of things that would be of assistance," he added. 

The construction site, which was reduced to little more than charred lumber as well as a burnt-out tractor, included three buildings containing four units each. Existing homes on either side of the fire scene sustained heavy damage as well. A third home west of the fire was also damaged. No civilians were injured, but a firefighter suffered an ankle injury. 

Barrie firefighters responded to the scene around midnight Sunday and battled the blaze into the wee hours of Monday morning. A gas line from a neighbouring house on the wests side was breached and was "acting like a blowtorch for hours," a fire official told BarrieToday on Monday. 

Anyone with information can contact police at 705-725-7025 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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