A man has been charged in connection to a suspicious series of fires that left a Kamloops, B.C., neighbourhood and nearby community shaken, Kamloops RCMP said Friday.
William Aaron Lamb, 22, is charged with four counts of arson in relation to several fires RCMP say were discovered near the 400-block of Lansdowne Street and nearby Victoria Street.
Lamb is accused of setting three fires Monday evening and one on Tuesday morning.
Earlier this week, RCMP said they discovered five dumpster fires in total Monday evening, and reports of an incident Tuesday morning where a suspect set fire to grass in Kamloops's North Shore neighbourhood.
RCMP said they believe the dumpster fires are connected to several other vehicle fires in Kamloops and nearby Knutsford over the weekend, and the investigation into those incidents is ongoing.
"We are pleased with the quick progression of this investigation that led to a suspect being taken into custody," said Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Ken Uzeloc in a Friday statement.
Kamloops RCMP said they received a report around 3 a.m. PT Saturday about a car set ablaze on the 400-block of Laurier Drive in the Aberdeen neighbourhood. Several other cars in the vicinity also had gasoline poured on them.
While officers were investigating, Kamloops Fire Rescue alerted them to a similar incident in an adjacent community on the 2600-block of Highway 5A.
In Knutsford, three vehicles were set on fire, causing damage to a nearby house and its fence.
Officials urged anyone with information on any of the fires to come forward.
"Although a suspect has been arrested, it's important to note that the investigations into other fires throughout the city are still ongoing," said Supt. Jeff Pelley in a Friday news release.
Lamb remains in custody and is set to appear in provincial court in Kamloops on May 23.
'The truck was an inferno'
One Knutsford resident, Amy Bethell, said she woke up to see her car in flames. She initially thought it was an issue with the batteries, but soon realized the situation was more dire.
"I heard a 'bang' in my sleep and I was like, 'Oh, that's kind of a weird sound,' and I dismissed it," she said.
"Then I heard another larger bang … at the moment I opened my bedroom door, I could see my living room was [in] a very strange orange colour.
"I walked over to my front door and I opened up my front door, and I could see that my vehicle and my engine compartment were very much on fire."
Jonathan Oliver, an Aberdeen resident who called 9-1-1, recounted his wife's frantic warning after spotting their neighbour's truck on fire.
"My wife yelled out the window, 'Hey! Get out of here!'" Oliver said. "I thought it was my property that was on fire, but it wasn't. I ran outside — just in my underwear — into the middle of the road.
"The truck was an inferno, [and] it's really close to my neighbour's house."
Evidence points to arson: fire rescue
According to Cpl. Crystal Evelyn, a spokesperson for the Kamloops RCMP, witnesses reported seeing two individuals dressed in black near the scenes of the fires, driving a new model, light-coloured Honda CRV or SUV.
"These [fire incidents] are believed to be related due to the time and the proximity of them," Evelyn said Tuesday on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.
Although Evelyn did not confirm arson as the cause, Scott Karpiak, assistant chief of operations for Kamloops Fire Rescue, said evidence points in that direction.
"There were gas cans on scene that did not belong to any of the neighbouring residents," Karpiak said.
"[The] paper towel and toilet paper apparently could have been used as a bit of an ignition source, none of which belong to any of the residents."
Dumpster fires in downtown
Recent data from Statistics Canada reveals an increase in arson incidents in Kamloops, home to over 97,000 people — rising from 30 cases in 2017 to 42 cases in 2021.
Evelyn declined to confirm a link between the fires earlier in the week and the vehicle fires on Saturday, urging the public not to panic.
"We just continue to encourage people to be on the lookout [and] watch for your neighborhood too," she said.