Charges approved against alleged arsonist in fire at Masonic hall in Vancouver

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A broken window with charred stairs is pictured after a fire at the Park Lodge Masonic Hall in Vancouver on Tuesday. Police say the man charged in relation to this fire has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A broken window with charred stairs is pictured after a fire at the Park Lodge Masonic Hall in Vancouver on Tuesday. Police say the man charged in relation to this fire has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The B.C. Prosecution Service has approved charges against the suspect of an alleged arson at one of three Masonic halls that caught fire in Metro Vancouver on Tuesday morning.

Vancouver police say Benjamin Kohlman, 42, has been charged with one count of arson and one count of assaulting a police officer, in relation to the fire in Vancouver.

In a written statement, Const. Tania Visintin said the two alleged arsons at Masonic halls in North Vancouver are still under investigation.

"We anticipate recommending more charges to Crown counsel in the coming weeks related to the North Vancouver files," Visintin said.

Police say the three fires were set between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Kohlman was found and arrested in Burnaby.

A broken window with charred stairs is pictured after a fire at the Park Lodge Masonic Hall in Vancouver on Tuesday. Police say the man charged in relation to this fire has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson.
A broken window with charred stairs is pictured after a fire at the Park Lodge Masonic Hall in Vancouver on Tuesday. Police say the man charged in relation to this fire has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kohlman was arrested after an off-duty police officer driving past the Masonic temple near Rupert Street and East 29th Avenue in Vancouver noticed a man walking away from the building as it burned, Visintin told CBC News Tuesday.

Video taken by a bystander shows flames licking at an entrance to the temple as a man carries a red jerry can to the trunk of a black van. He is then confronted by the off-duty officer.

The Vancouver fire followed two other blazes that were reported earlier in the morning at Masonic lodges in North Vancouver. Police said no one was injured during the fires or the arrest.

Investigators have released few details about Kohlman or possible motives, except to say that he has a history of interactions with the police and no history of arson.

Two other Masonic halls, including this one in North Vancouver's Lynn Valley, also burned on Tuesday morning. Those fires are still under investigation, police said Wednesday.
Two other Masonic halls, including this one in North Vancouver's Lynn Valley, also burned on Tuesday morning. Those fires are still under investigation, police said Wednesday.(Ben Nelms/CBC)