In the early hours of Wednesday, eight vehicles, including marked RCMP SUVs, were set on fire in front of a hotel in Smithers, close to where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is being built.
The fire was “a targeted attack on emergency services vehicles,” according to the RCMP.
Around 4:30 a.m., it appears that the cars were set on fire while they were parked in a lot outside the Sunshine Inn. To assist the local fire department at the motel in the 3800-block of Fourth Avenue, Smithers RCMP was requested.
Eight vehicles, including four RCMP cars and a B.C. ambulance, were damaged or destroyed before fire firefighters and police officers were able to put the fire out.
“Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire, which is the most important thing,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson in a statement.
“This appears to be a targeted attack on emergency services vehicles. Preliminary investigation indicates this is an arson and we are asking for the public’s assistance in providing information so that the person or persons involved may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gladys Atrill, the mayor of Smithers, called the arson “horrifying” and urged everyone to let the RCMP do their duties.
“I am very disturbed about the fires in Smithers this morning that destroyed several vehicles,” said Atrill in a statement, noting that “knowing this was deliberately set is horrifying …
“With the apparent targeting of vehicles in a hotel parking lot, it could have been so much worse if the fire had spread to the adjacent buildings. At this point there are no suspects and the police are looking for witnesses and any possible video of the incident.”
Despite not being a direct target of the fire, Coastal GasLink’s parent firm, TC Energy, expressed worry and gratitude that nobody was hurt.
“Whatever the motivation, these types of attacks, including today’s, have no place in Canada. Our top priority remains the safety of those in the area, including our workforce, contractors and Indigenous and local community members.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced security measures at our worksites in the area.”
The Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which has previously been the target of violent vandalism, is being built near the area where the suspicious fires took place.
A vandalised construction site outside Houston was damaged to the tune of millions of dollars in February by a group of roughly 20 individuals, some of whom were armed with axes and flare guns. It was a coordinated attack, according to the RCMP.
An arson on a luxury car in Montreal in May outside the home of Michael Fortier, a former federal cabinet minister and vice-chairman of RBC Capital Markets, one of the banks funding the GasLink project, was claimed by unidentified Coastal GasLink opponents.
A 670-kilometer pipeline called Coastal GasLink will transport natural gas to the Asian market from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. 2019 saw the start of construction, which has been met with some protests and violence. According to TC Energy, it is 75% finished and has given employment to more than 6,300 people.