Firefighters attack the front the 7-Eleven store while the vehicle that was driven into the front of the building burns in front of it. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

UPDATE: Suspect in Salmon Arm 7-Eleven fire facing charges

Man arrested at scene charged with arson, mischief to property and dangerous operation of vehicle

A 37-year-old man is facing multiple charges in relation to the Friday afternoon fire at the downtown Salmon Arm 7-Eleven.

Kenneth Robert Laforge is facing charges of arson damaging property, arson in relation to inhabited property, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, mischief to property and mischief to property over $5,000.

Laforge was arrested at the scene of the blaze where a vehicle had been driven into the front of the convenience store on Highway 1.

“Upon police arrival it appeared as if the suspect, the driver of the vehicle, allegedly poured gasoline inside the store and lit the store on fire,” said Salmon Arm RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott West in a Monday, Aug. 27 release. “The store became fully engulfed with fire.”

At 1:50 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, Salmon Arm firefighters were initially dispatched to a vehicle fire at the 7-Eleven. Fire Chief Brad Shirley said this was immediately upgraded to a structure fire. Two halls responded with two engines, an aerial ladder, a tender and a rescue truck, along with 21 firefighters.

The first engine arrived within minutes, and crews moved quickly to contain and knock down the blaze, which had spread from the car up into the overhang, and through the overhang across the front of the building. Adding to the challenge was a stack propane tanks beneath the left side of the overhang.

Related: Man drives car into Shuswap 7-Eleven building, starts fire, witnesses say

“Certainly, given what’s assumed to have been gasoline used in that fire, obviously that accelerates a fire very quickly so that obviously poses a challenge to us,” said Shirley, who commended 7-Eleven staff for ensuring everyone inside was quickly and safely evacuated.

As a further safety precaution, neighbouring businesses were also evacuated.

Shirley said firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the exterior of the building, though there was significant water damage inside.

As firefighters pressed their attack, witnesses reported seeing a person drive a silver sedan into the front of the 7-Eleven, pour gasoline on the vehicle and lighting it on fire.

Area resident Reta Moerike was across the highway at Fletcher Park just before 2 p.m. Friday when she and her spouse heard a loud bang.

“It might have been the guy driving into the store – he would have hit the newsstand, not the till,” she surmises.

Another man in the park saw the billowing smoke and immediately recognized it as a vehicle fire and ran towards the store.

Related: Update: Police arrest a suspect after front of 7-Eleven goes up in flames

Moerike could see from across the street that a car had driven into the store’s front window.

“The door (of the car) was open so we knew the person was out.”

She estimates fire trucks were on scene within two to three minutes.

“Things started blowing up – we thought, ‘what about propane tanks?’ But it was smaller stuff, there would be a pop and then a puff of smoke. Then the awning caught fire, and the whole front of the store went up rapidly. That happened just as the trucks came on scene.”

She says she was very impressed by the way the emergency crews handled the incident.

“Within a matter of three or four minutes, all of the first responders had all traffic mobilized, all the traffic coming down the hill was being rerouted. It was really efficient, quite an amazing thing to watch how the whole thing was managed. It was really impressive. Not only the fire, but the whole scene.”

Shirley commended the RCMP for closing off one lane of the highway to allow the fire department to better access the fire. Firefighters also helped police keep the large crowd that had gathered at a safe distance.

West said the police continue to investigate.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Firefighters were packing up by about 3:50 p.m., leaving the scene for police to investigate. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Accused in suspected Shuswap home invasion faces additional charges

One of men charged in Dec. 28 incident faces four counts from two weeks earlier

Driver ticketed after rollover on Highway 1 near Salmon Arm

Jeep Cherokee hit rock face before rolling multiple times

Foul play not currently suspected in death of man found near Sicamous

Body found in woods near vehicle linked to Edmonton police investigation of suspicious death

Boil water notice issued for North Shuswap community hall

Notice applies only to water system used by Scotch Creek facility

RCMP make request after safety flares prompt search on Shuswap Lake

Marine search and rescue crew finds boat unoccupied, no one in distress

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Summerland approves solar project

Despite community opposition, council voted 4-3 for Cartwright Mountain location

Police search for suspect in assault on woman in downtown Kelowna

Kelowna police received a report a woman had been assaulted by an unknown man on July 12

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two positive COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm

The risk of exposure to the general public related to this farm is considered to be low

Oliver Town Hall closed to public as staffer displays COVID-19 symptoms

One staff member at Oliver Town Hall is being tested for coronavirus

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Horoscopes for the week of July 13

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

Most Read