The Merritt detachment of the RCMP are continuing their investigation into what is now four separate incidents involving arson and attempted arson to churches in the Nicola Valley on Friday.
Shortly before 2:00 a.m., RCMP were dispatched to an alarm at the Crossroads Community Church on Voght St. in which they and Fire officials discovered a small fire smoldering inside the building. Members determined that entry was made into the building and a fire lit which was able to be extinguished before too much damage was done.
While on scene at the Crossroads Church a second call came in about a fire at the Murray United Church at Nicola Ranch. When members and the Merritt Fire Dept. got to the scene, the church was fully engulfed in flames and unable to be saved.
On Friday afternoon at approximately 1:00 p.m. Merritt RCMP received another report regarding an abandoned church located west of Merritt on Hwy 8. The abandoned church was reported to have been entered overnight and a small fire lit that appeared to have burnt out before doing any damage and was discovered the following day. A second church nearby was checked by members on scene and evidence of a break in and attempted arson were also located at this church.
Police are continuing their investigation in conjunction with forensic ident and fire investigators.
RCMP are requesting any information from the public who may have seen or heard anything suspicious regarding any of the arsons contact the department at 250-378-4262 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
(The remains of the Murray Church after a fire that destroyed the building on Jan. 11.)
Merritt RCMP and the Merritt Fire Department were kept busy overnight Friday as two local churches were struck by fire.
According to RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore, the first fire alert came in from the Merritt Crossroads Community Church on Voght Street.
“Officials were alerted to the Crossroads Church fire at around 2 a.m. across from the detachment here,” Dunsmore said. “Arson is suspected in that fire.”
Dunsmore added that fire officials were able to get the fire out quickly before significant damage occurred.
While RCMP and fire crews were still attending to the Crossroads Church fire a second call came in from the community of Nicola reporting that the historic Murray Church was ablaze.
“When you have two churches being burned in the same community with hours of each other is its “definitely suspicious” Dunsmore added. “We are in the early stages of our investigation, so information is limited.”
While officials would not confirm arson was the cause of the Murray Church fire, the structure did not have electricity or a heating system in it that could have caused the ignition.
Area resident Jack Polmans told Q101 news that the loss of the Murray Church is shocking for the community.
“It’s devastating to our community,” Polmans said. “A lot of work has been done to the building over the last three years including painting and we really had it looking good.”
Polmans added that over the past few years, the Murray Church had employed a summer student to give guided tours to visitors.
The Murray Church was built in 1876, and according to Polmans was not insured to be rebuilt.
The Merritt RCMP are encouraging anyone with any information on these fires can contact the detachment or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
more to come
An overnight fire has detroyed a historic landmark in Nicola.
The Murray Church, which was built in 1876, was engulfed in flames when firefighters reached the scene early this morning (Jan 11).
Few details are known at this hour as the investigation continues.
more to come
A group of Merritt residents concerned with the steep price of gas in the city will gather on Thursday morning to let it be known that they want something done about it.
Currently gas prices in Merritt sit at 124.9 per litre for regular self-serve while drivers in neighbouring communities such as Kamloops and Kelowna are filling up on fuel at 106.9 and 115.9 respectively.
Protest organizer Callie Langlois hopes Thursday’s rally sparks the same reaction as a similar rally did in 2017.
“We held a large demonstration a few years ago here in Merritt and I think it got people’s attention,” said Langlois. “We did see the prices come down a bit in the city for few weeks anyway.”
Langlois added that over the past few weeks, several residents have contacted her regarding another rally to address the situation once again.
“I had a lot of people message me and call me saying we should hold another rally because the prices are just too high, “she added. “We have to get our voices heard.”
A visiting motorist, John Whittaker of Calgary was on his way to Vancouver to visit his brother when he opted to bypass gas stations in Kamloops in favor of Merritt.
“I looked at my gas gauge and thought I should fill-up while I’m near Kamloops and saw gas around 1.04.9 at Costco,” Whittaker chuckled. “I decided to wait until I get to Merritt and fill-up, I thought it will be cheaper there. Boy was I wrong, and I won’t make that mistake again.”
Whittaker added that the difference was approximately eight dollars higher than if he stopped in Kamloops.
“Normally I would have gassed up and then stopped for lunch somewhere,” he noted. “But being on a fixed income I can’t do that now after shelling out another ten or eleven bucks for gas. I sure feel sorry for the local merchants here if this keeps up.”
Langlois hopes to see a huge number support their march on Thursday which gets underway at 10 a.m. weather permitting at the Chevron location on “gasoline alley”.
On Twitter: @MerrittQ101
With numbers on the decline in recent years, the Merritt Fire Department is conducting a recruitment campaign over the next few months in hopes of bolstering the number of on-call firefighters available to the city.
In an interview with Q101 News, Merritt Fire Department Chief David Tomkinson said that over the years the number of firefighters has dwindled for a variety of reasons.
“There are all sorts of reason why people leave the department, “Tomkinson explained. “Some leave because they find work while others leave because they move onto paid career positions in larger fire departments.”
Tomkinson hopes the latest recruitment effort garners about a half dozen people which would bring the compliment of members available to Merritt to just over 40.
“There is always a need for paid on-call firefighters,” he added. “So, we will be stepping up our efforts over the next few weeks.”
The Fire Chief noted that there are certain criteria that needs to be met, to become a member of the department.
“You must be 19 years-of-age, with no criminal record and you must be physically fit,” said Tomkinson. “The number one thing that you need is the time to dedicate to the department.”
Application forms are available on line, or at the Merritt Fire Hall on Nicola Avenue.
On Twitter: @MerrittQ101