I live under a canopy of majestic, mature American elm trees in one of Winnipeg’s many old middle-class neighbourhoods. I call it “the forest” – peaceful but ever-changing. Lately my peace has been shaken by firebugs in the ‘hood. At least twenty fires have been intentionally set over the last three months within about a nine block radius of my house. They range from pizza boxes in recycling bins to garbage fires to garages, vehicles and whole houses going up in flames. I suppose in an effort not to panic everyone but coming off sounding dumb and out-of-it, the Winnipeg Fire Department isn’t even admitting it could be arson. Nor does our city councillor, Jenny Gerbasi. This inflames many of us in the neighbourhood. We’re adults. Tell us the truth! We can handle it! Do you want us to start defending our alleys and properties with baseball bats at night? I have heard of neighbours doing just that!
This creepy video was taken by the security cameras at a home in my neighbourhood between 8:35 and 8:46 in the evening on July 27. I don’t know where the specific house is. This is new on YouTube. It shows the arsonists lighting a fire! Since it’s eleven minutes long, I’ll give you the highlights timewise. At :55 two boys appear to be playing in the alley. They are the arsonists. They disappear and reappear. At 3:13 in lower right frame, the firestarter walks into yard carrying jerry can. Thereafter the accomplice acts as lookout, at 4:29 hiding when a car comes down the alley. At 4:55 the accomplice walks down the alley, looking back. At 6:13 firestarter runs in opposite direction carrying jerry can. At 6:34 firestarter casually walks by and down the alley, no jerry can. Note the same boxy black runners with white stripe from early shots. By 10:35 neighbours are reacting to hearing the fire engines. As I write this, the video has less than two dozen hits. I hope at least one of them is from the Winnipeg Fire Department. (Update: Sunday, July 31: Wpg. Police Services arson task force is aware of the video.) With today’s face recognition technology, these two should already be behind bars!
Instead, I sit on my porch swing in the evening, a little dread edging in as the twilight deepens. Most of the arson has been between midnight and 4 a.m. – our nervous hours these days. The hair on the back of neck prickles when I hear sirens approach “the forest” and I sleep with my bedroom window open, hoping to smell the smoke before the house goes up if my garage is hit. In the still of a summer long weekend Saturday night, right now, at nine o’clock, I hear sirens.