Man charged after Vancouver Masonic hall fire, two fires remain under investigation

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VANCOUVER — A 42-year-old man has been charged in relation to one of three fires at buildings operated by Freemasons in Metro Vancouver on Tuesday.

Benjamin Kohlman has been charged with arson and assaulting a police officer in connection with a fire in Vancouver, police said in a news release Wednesday. Kohlman will remain in custody until his next court appearance, police said.

Two alleged arsons in North Vancouver are still under investigation, police said.

Police anticipate recommending more charges related to those fires in the coming weeks, Const. Tania Visintin said in the release.

All three fires were allegedly set in the span of an hour Tuesday morning.

The first call came in at around 6:45 a.m. about a fire at the Lynn Valley Lodge in North Vancouver. A second fire reported minutes later severely damaged a Masonic centre located four kilometres away, police said.

The third fire at a Masonic hall in east Vancouver was reported around 7:30 a.m. and caused little damage, fire officials said.

An off-duty police officer was driving in the area around the time that fire was reported and he saw a man leave the building, Visintin said Tuesday.

"The building was partially on fire. He confronted this man. A physical fight ensued between the man and the off-duty police officer."

The man got away, said Visintin, who could not confirm Tuesday that he was the same man who was taken into custody.

Investigators were working to determine a motive, she said, adding she wasn't aware of any past threats to local Masonic lodges.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

The Canadian Press