Port Alberni RCMP say they’ve arrested a 34-year-old man for two counts of arson, but he’s not necessarily the one responsible for a rash of recent spot fires in the community.
Police took the man known to them into custody on Wednesday and charged him with one count unrelated to the arsons. He’s being held in custody until his next court appearance on July 21.
However RCMP say their investigation continues into several recent “fire-setting incidents” in wooded areas, and that those fires are not necessarily being blamed on the man who was arrested.
Fire officials said earlier this week that more than a dozen wildfires were set within a nine-day span.
Court records show the man charged is Christofer Pedersen. He was arrested on a breach not to attend a certain location Wednesday and subsequently charged with the two counts of arson.
“These investigations stem from the Dry Creek Park area arsons that they’ve been investigating. There were several fires that were lit and we’re working to determine if this same suspect lit all of those fires,” said Sgt. Chris Manseau with Port Alberni RCMP>
Court records show Pedersen has racked up a lengthy criminal record during the past decade including charges of theft, uttering threats and drug possession. He was charged with arson once before in 2019 but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of mischief.
For those who live near Dry Creek Park in Port Alberni, the charges are a relief.
“More than thrilled. It’s been going on for a long time. There have been many small fires around town and this was just too close to the house,” said Steve Sumen.
Investigators are looking for witness observations, dashcam or other videos in order to identify the person or people responsible for those fires, and are asking anyone with information to call them at 250-723-2424.
“With the current weather and winds it is crucial that we control all potential sources of ignition and be mindful of activities in our area that may result in fires,” Port Alberni RCMP said in a news release. “For fire response within the city of Port Alberni call 911 and ask for Fire, if suspects or suspicious activity is observed request police as well.”
To report a wildfire or behaviour that could start a fire, call 1-800-663-5555.