ST. BERNARD, DIGBY COUNTY, N.S. – A suspicious fire that destroyed a lobster pound on Little Paradise Road in St. Bernard has been labelled by the RCMP as an act of arson.
St. Bernard Fire Chief Daniel Gaudet said his crew and firefighters from Little Brook got the fire call at about 4 a.m. Christmas Day.
“We have an agreement with Little Brook, so their volunteers are automatically paged when we’re called out to a structure fire,” Gaudet said.
Gaudet said Weymouth and Southville firefighters also responded, and the four teams soon felt they had the fire under control and they departed, leaving security on the scene.
However, with the high winds that tore through the region during the day, flare-ups continued to happen at the scene and the fire crews were called back several times. Later in the afternoon, almost 12 hours after the initial call, Gaudet said, the wind shifted from the northeast to the southwest and two more crews – from Havelock and Meteghan – responded.
“The wind change didn’t help,” Gaudet said. The lobster pound and a vehicle sitting next to it were soon overwhelmed by the wind-driven flames. “We tried to save what we could, but we couldn’t get to the seat of the fire. That’s when we had to call in an excavator,” Gaudet said.
The initial blaze was reported to the RCMP by 4:45 a.m. Christmas morning after the initial blaze was labeled as “suspicious”. The lobster pound was owned by Sipekne’katick First Nation Band Councillor Alex McDonald. Gaudet said there was a tank inside for keeping lobsters.
“I checked, but I didn’t see any lobsters,” Gaudet said.
On Oct. 9, 2017, McDonald’s fishing vessel – Buck and Doe – was discovered burning in the middle of St. Mary’s Bay after it had been reported missing from the Comeauville wharf earlier the same day. The vessel was a total loss. At the time, McDonald was quoted as saying he felt he was being targeted because he’s Aboriginal.
“I never expected anything like this in my whole life. I have no enemies,” McDonald said in October. McDonald could not be reached for comment regarding the burning of his lobster pound.
Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, media relations officer with the RCMP confirmed that officers have spoken with McDonald.
“The RCMP will continue to conduct neighbourhood inquiries, interview any potential witnesses and look at identifying potential suspects,” Hutchinson said. “Our Forensic Identification Section will assess the evidence seized at the scene,” he added, noting that there was evidence present at the scene that confirmed this fire was intentionally set.
“Given that it’s an active investigation, I’m not able to speak specifically to what was located,” Hutchinson said.
While the Nova Scotia Office of the Fire Marshal was called in to assist with the investigation of the burned lobster pound, and was also contacted about the burning of the Buck and Doe back in October, Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Thibeau said his office is no longer involved in either case.
“They did call us, and we were planning to investigate, until the rekindle and the building was a total loss,” Thibeau said, adding that once an excavator is called in, “There’s not much left we can look at.”
As far as the burning of the Buck and Doe in October is concerned, Thibeau said his office was never really involved.
“The boat sank while it was being towed to shore, so once again, there was nothing for us to examine.”
Hutchinson asked members of the public to come forward with any information to assist with this, and any other ongoing investigations.
“Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere at all times, so we rely on the communities where we live and police to help us in keeping each other safe.”
Hutchinson said the RCMP will provide an update on the investigation if/when charges are laid.
“We ask anyone with any information about this incident to contact Meteghan RCMP or Crime Stoppers,” Hutchinson said. “We are also asking the public to notify the RCMP if you observe any suspicious activity in your community.”
Meteghan RCMP detachment can be reached at: 902-645-2326, and Crime Stoppers can be reached at: 1-800-222-8477 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.