A man has been arrested and faces arson charges after a fire engulfed the former World War I munitions factory in Lindsay in the early hours of Wednesday July 20.
Firefighters were still at the scene at 45 James Street Wednesday at noon.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Kawartha Lakes police issued a press release saying a man had been arrested in connection with the fire. Police say emergency personnel arrived at the scene around 1 a.m. Officers began searching the area for suspects as firefighters battled the blaze.
“Police received information that a man was being treated for burns by emergency medical services at a business in Lindsay Street South,” the statement said.
Officers showed up and arrested the accused, Riley Cormier, 25, of Lindsay, for arson – property damage and breach of probation order X2.
Police say that following further investigation, the accused was also charged with arson – property damage x4, arson – disregard for human life and breach of probation order x9 in connection with five alleged fires reported since April, including the Iron Bridge fire in Lindsay.
The accused will appear for a bail hearing at the Ontario Court of Justice in Lindsay on July 20.
Kawartha Lakes Fire Chief Terry Jones told this week about 30 firefighters worked in the blistering summer heat to battle Wednesday’s blaze at the old James Street factory.
“It’s a huge building,” he added, noting that about a third of the building, which was built around 1916 and used to manufacture munitions for the war effort and later as the factory Trent Rubber, was entirely engulfed in flames when crews arrived. .
In addition to the extreme heat outside, fighting the blaze has been a challenge for fire crews as the abandoned building has been boarded up and the hydrants are quite a distance from the scene, Jones said.
“Luckily it was mostly an outside attack, so a bit easier than having to pack up and go inside.”
The Ontario Fire Marshal was called in to help with the investigation, Jones said.
According to Branch 67 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Lindsay, with research provided by the Olde Gaol Museum, Lindsay was chosen as the site for one of 600 munitions factories to be built in Canada; and in 1916 the foundation stone was laid on the James Street property. This was made possible through the efforts of Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence, the namesake of Lindsay’s Legion branch.
“In the summer of 1917, ‘the Dominion arsenal’ was in full swing; 260 women from Lindsay and surrounding areas engaged in the very dangerous and precise manufacture of cartridges – case, cap and bullet – until the end of the war,” reads information posted on the Legion’s website. . “After the armistice, in the spring of 1919, almost all these ‘munitionettes’ were fired and the factory remained silent.”
Twenty years later, the factory was back in business and producing armaments for World War II.
“In 1969 the site was sold to a private company – Trent Rubber – which eventually closed in 2005,” reads the Legion’s website.