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Salmon Arm man arrested for arson at fruit stand

Fire crews worked to extinguish a fire at Pedro Gonzales Fruit and Garden, which completely demolished the building. A Salmon Arm man is now facing arson and theft charges in connection with the blaze.  - Observer file photo
Fire crews worked to extinguish a fire at Pedro Gonzales Fruit and Garden, which completely demolished the building. A Salmon Arm man is now facing arson and theft charges in connection with the blaze.
— image credit: Observer file photo

RCMP have arrested a 38-year-old former employee of Pedro Gonzalez Fruit and Garden Ltd. in connection with a fire that devastated the business Sept. 9.

Police have recommended charges of arson and theft against Salmon Arm resident Adam Schultz, who will make his first court appearance March 18.

The fire was called in at at 12:20 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9 and was a fully involved by the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later.

“Given the time frame, it’s very unusual. It’s rare something will move that quickly and do that much damage,” said assistant fire chief Rod Macfarlane at the time.

Fire inspectors deemed the blaze suspicious in nature and quickly turned the investigation over to the local RCMP detachment.

"During the past four months, police members of the General Investigation Section at Salmon Arm Detachment have completed a complex investigation into the matter," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane, who reiterated the difficulties involved in solving arson investigations.

He says the investigation was lengthy and complex, including several search warrants and involvement of the South East District RCMP plainclothes unit, E Division Major Crimes and local plainclothes members and general duty officers.

"Police were aware of a theft from the business early in the investigation, believed it to be an internal theft and, as such, considered the arson might be linked to the earlier theft," he says.

Keane applauded what he called the dogged determination of Const. Dan St. Amand.

"He explored every avenue to bring this to a successful conclusion; he got on this early and just wouldn't let go."

Dale Ruth, one of the owners of Pedro Gonzalez Fruit and Garden Ltd., said the family is happy there has been an arrest and pleased with the the police effort.

"They worked their butts off," he says. "It's not quite closure, but it's a start. It lets  people know they just can't go around burning peoples' businesses."

Ruth says the family is confident the matter will be resolved and is concentrating on re-building their fruit and garden centre.

"Then we can get back to business, get back to what we do," he said. "We're doing pretty well and hoping to be open April 1."

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