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Saint John police release video of suspects involved in Sunday evening tent fire

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The Saint John Police Force is requesting the public’s help in identifying individuals who may have set a fire at a tent encampment Sunday night.

The major crimes unit have released a video showing what is believed to be suspects and a vehicle involved in setting the fire.

The video shows a car pulling up beside the tent encampment along Exmouth Street at 7:38 p.m. on Sunday evening. An individual then comes out of the vehicle from the passenger side before disappearing off camera behind the encampment site. Seconds later a fire quickly starts, and the individual jumps back into the vehicle, when the video then cuts off.

Police ask anyone with any information, including additional footage, to come forward and contact police.

According to the police force’s news release, four people were allegedly inside the tent when the fire broke out. Witnesses claim to have heard something hit the tent before it caught fire, and the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

There were no injuries reported as a result of the fire.

Saint John Fire Chief Rob Nichol says crews were wrapping up from a separate fire at a vacated encampment site nearby when the call came in, leading to a swift containment and dousing of the flames.

He says crews have been regularly checking in with encampments around the city to prepare in the case of any fires following an encampment blaze earlier this year that claimed the life of Evan McArthur.

“A lot of it is in the pre-planning and understanding what those hazards are,” says Nichol, noting a variety of items can be located inside an encampment, including propane tanks.

“With encampment fires, there is a lot of unknown, and I think that is one of the major hazards that we have,” he says. “Even an encampment that we visited a day before and pre-planned for can be very different the next time you go there.”

He says while visiting these sites, fire crews have been educating residents of ways to mitigate risks of a fire.

“It’s been very well received from those folks,” says the chief. “But it also has given our firefighters an understanding of what the hazards can be and what to look for when they do respond.”

Sunday’s blaze may not have lasted long, but it certainly shook both those living in the tents and residents in the area.

Derrick May lives just behind the encampment and says it was scary for the entire neighborhood with explosions even shaking his house.

“The state of the community right now is a lot of people are in shock,” says May. “They were afraid and this cause a lot of trauma for the people in the community, including those in the tents as well.”

He says the encampment as a whole has many in the area feeling uneasy of late. He claims drug use and violence related incidents have been on the rise in the area since the site popped up. He credits those doing their best to help manage the site but says more needs to be done.

“Rather then coming by and doing drive-by philanthropy and drop stuff off, which is great, I think you need to get behind organizations and make donations to the ones that can actually help,” May says.

“If they’re a registered non-profit, I would suggest they are to help these people. Contact your MP’s. Contact your politicians. Let them know this is not okay for anybody and hopefully we can move forward together as a community.”

At the end of the day, May just wants to see the best for his community and all those involved.

“I know this issue right now is creating quite the divide in the community and we need to bring people together more then ever right now. We need to tackle this problem together as a community.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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