Suspicious fires have destroyed three seasonal properties in the Almaguin, Ont. area. The fires occurred on separate days and were reported to the Almaguin Highlands OPP on April 13, 14, and 15. The first two fires occurred on Granite Hill Road in Nipissing, and the third fire occurred approximately seven kilometres away on King Lake Road in Machar.
No one was harmed in the fire, but the North Bay and Almaguin Highlands OPP are asking anyone who saw anything suspicious to contact them at 1-888-310-1122. Currently, there’s no word on how the fires were started, but OPP are looking into the possibility of arson. “There’s no evidence at this point that they’re linked,” says constable Louise Maki of the Almaguin Highlands OPP, “Although, it is suspected.”
A concerning aspect of these fires is that many of the seasonal properties in the area have been left empty as cottagers are unable to check on their properties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This isn’t reason to jump in your cars and flock to cottage country, though, warns Maki. “The best thing is to have somebody check on the residence for them. Somebody who lives in the area, because quite often you’ll have some permanent residents on the lake.” A neighbour is ideal as they’re typically around during off-hours, such as the evening or overnight, and may hear or see something suspicious.
Having someone check in on your property and report back is a great reactive step, but if you want to protect your cottage from potential vandalism and theft, Maki says it’s best to take proactive measures. “The biggest thing is to make it look lived in,” she says. “So, if it’s winter, have somebody plowing the driveway. Summertime, make sure your lawn is cut.”
A lighting system is also a good deterrent. Cottages that are dark in the evening are an indication that they’re empty, especially in the off-season. “Have a light on a timer,” Maki advises. Or install a motion sensor light that turns on if anyone walks near the property.
Lastly, as an extra measure of security, Maki suggests installing a camera. “Cameras are fantastic,” she says. “Security cameras or even the game cameras that hunters often use.” Many game cameras use motion sensors, capturing either a video segment or a picture. Either way, they’re likely to catch the image of someone lurking around your property.
“Cameras would have been fantastic here,” Maki says, referring to the three fires. “That would have potentially shown anybody walking or cars.”