PUBLISHED 14 HOURS AGO
UPDATED MARCH 30, 2021
JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Vancouver Police have arrested a man on arson charges after three Masonic lodges were set ablaze Tuesday, but why the facilities for the 300-year-old international service fraternity were targeted is not clear.
Constable Tania Visintin said the 42-year-old suspect is known to police, but not for anything related to arson. The three fires were set within an hour of each other, two in North Vancouver and one in east Vancouver. The police declined to identify the suspect.
“Officers were able to swiftly arrest the alleged suspect and we’re thankful that no one was injured,” Constable Visintin said. “Our investigators are looking to see if they all are connected … We are not too sure what his plan was.”
North Vancouver RCMP were notified of a fire at the Lynn Valley Lodge just before 6:45 a.m. and the fire was put out around 7 a.m.
“There’s heavy fire damage on the exterior of the front entrance,” said Jeremy Duncan, assistant fire chief at the District of North Vancouver. “It happened very early in the morning and we’re very fortunate that the neighbours saw it early and called 911.”
Shortly after, North Vancouver RCMP were notified of a second fire at Duke of Connaught Lodge No. 64 in Lonsdale, a 10-minute drive away. The lodge was part of a building that was heavily damaged in the blaze.
“Huge plume of smoke, it was quite dramatic. There were at least four fire trucks there placing water on the fire,” said Sergeant Peter DeVries of the North Vancouver RCMP.
Just before 7:30 a.m., a third fire was reported to first responders at the Masonic Temple near Rupert Street and East 29th Avenue in Vancouver.
The fire was extinguished quickly and didn’t cause extensive damage. The building dates back to the early 1900s and housed a library of old books, art and photographs.
Venessa Stonehouse is the owner of a restaurant in the same unit as the Masonic hall in Lonsdale. She said she was notified about the blaze at 7 a.m. She rushed to her business and sat in a nearby parking lot as she watched the “devastating” flames.
“My business is gone. The whole building is decapitated. It’s gone,” she said.
“I watched the last six years of my life burn to the ground. I’m shocked.”
Cole Harvey, a Masonic member, said he had no idea why his group was targeted.
“We’ve never heard any negative words or negative intents directed towards us,” he said in an interview as fire crews blasted water at the smouldering North Vancouver Masonic Centre
“I’m just absolutely shocked and quite heartbroken.”
Constable Visintin said an off-duty police officer witnessed a man exit the third building.
“The building was partially on fire. He confronted this man, a physical fight ensued between the man and the off-duty police officer and then that suspect did leave,” Constable Visintin said, but she declined to answer whether the man confronted by the officer is the same one who has been arrested.
Masonic lodges are the meeting quarters of the Freemasons. The group was founded more than 300 years ago as a trade organization and continues today as a social group for men that operates around the world.
The police aren’t aware of any past threats to these centres and wouldn’t speculate on why they were attacked now.
“We’re still in the early stages of this investigation, so we don’t have the answers as to the motive,” Sgt. DeVries said.
“A review of any history involving the locations that were targeted would be part of that investigative process, but at this time we don’t know, we would like to know and we hope we will find out.”