RCMP looks for help to solve string of arsons in northern N.S.

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RCMP are asking for tips to help solve a string of arsons in northern Nova Scotia.

Fire has destroyed or seriously damaged about 10 buildings in the Collingwood Corner area, east of Springhill, since February.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dal Hutchinson said the buildings include vacant sheds, barns and homes — including at least one house that was for sale — and that no one has been injured in the fires.

But Hutchinson said police are worried the next one could be different.

"Our concern is that the next fire could involve a property where people are actually living there and our concern is somebody's going to eventually get hurt," he said.

'The fires just didn't start on their own'

Police believe an arsonist is at work because the number of fires since February is unusual, and because all the buildings were unoccupied.

"Many of them, there's no sign of any electricity to the building, so the fires just didn't start on their own," said Hutchinson.

He said the fires are putting a strain on firefighters.

"It's tying up all of the fire resources in that area to deal with these fires," said Hutchinson. "And what people don't realize is that these are volunteers, all of the firemen in Cumberland County. They have to leave their jobs, their families to deal with these fires."

Stanley Hunter, the chief of the Springhill fire department, said the arsons have taken their toll.

"Working that hard and taking that beating on their bodies during the day and then trying to sleep in this humidity at night, they and their families both are getting worn out," he said. "We're just wishing now that it would stop."

Financial hit

In addition to the 10 structures, the arsonist has also targeted grassy areas.

Hunter said the number of calls has drastically increased in recent months. In the last year, the Springhill department responded to 155 calls. But since April 1, it's already attended 91 calls.

That spike will affect the municipality's budget, Hunter said.

The department has a $4,000 annual fuel budget. Last year, it had money left over at the end. But Hunter said in the three months between April and June, that money's already been spent.

"It seems since the first of April things have gone nuts here," he said.

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