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2 people charged in Edson vehicle dealership fires, Whitecourt pet store blaze and other arsons

Charges laid after 2 massive fires in Edson
WATCH ABOVE: There's been a break in the case of two massive fires at car dealerships in Edson. RCMP have arrested and charged two people, accusing them of those two fires and three others. Fletcher Kent reports.

A 37-year old man and 17-year-old boy have been charged in a spree of arsons and other crimes west of Edmonton, including two fires that damaged vehicle dealerships in the town of Edson.

The Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep was heavily damaged by fire on Monday, December 9, 2019.
The Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep was heavily damaged by fire on Monday, December 9, 2019. Supplied

The first fires happened in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2019, when one fire destroyed the Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep. The entire office and showroom area of the dealership was destroyed, as well as about 60 per cent of the mechanical area.

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READ MORE: Fire destroys Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership west of Edmonton

Then about 45 minutes later, a second fire resulted in a truck being destroyed in another part of the town, which is located about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.

A truck destroyed by fire in Edson, Alta. on Monday, December 9, 2019.
A truck destroyed by fire in Edson, Alta. on Monday, December 9, 2019. Courtesy: Terina Irwin

About two weeks later on Dec. 26, RCMP said the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt was broken into and set on fire. Whitecourt is located about 95 kilometres north of Edson.

READ MORE: Whitecourt businesses destroyed in Boxing Day blaze

Police said a four-month-old male Chihuahua was stolen from the store, and remains missing (scroll down to see photos of the dog.) The rest of the pet store, along with an adjacent sewing shop, burned to the ground. It’s not known how many animals were killed.

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Two businesses were destroyed in an early morning fire in Whitecourt, Alta., on Boxing Day 2019.
Two businesses were destroyed in an early morning fire in Whitecourt, Alta., on Boxing Day 2019. Sarah Komadina, Global News

A few days later on Dec. 30, the Honda dealership in Edson suffered extensive damage in a fire.

The last suspicious fire happened on Feb. 23 at the Petro Canada in Niton Junction, Alta., which is located on the Yellowhead Highway between Edmonton and Edson.

RCMP said it had been actively investigating all five fires, and on Wednesday charged two people.

Thomas James Berube, 37, and a 17-year-old boy — both from Edson — are both charged with the following:

  • Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep fire: Arson – damage to property, and break and enter – commit theft over $5,000
  • Edson vehicle fire: arson – damage to property, and theft of motor vehicle over $5,000
  • Whitecourt KW Pet Store fire: arson – disregard for human life, killing or injuring animals, and break and enter – commit theft under $5,000
  • Edson Honda fire: arson – damage to property, and break and enter – commit theft over $5,000

Both are also charged with obstruction of justice.

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READ MORE: Edson Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership fire, vehicle fire may be related: RCMP

In the fire at the gas station in Niton Junction, Berube is also charged with arson – disregard for human life, and break and enter – commit indictable offence.

The name of the teenager was not released because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

After being arrested, both Berube and the teen went into custody to speak to bail and are scheduled to appear at the Edson Provincial Court on March 17.

Man, youth charged in Edson car dealership fires, Whitecourt pet store fire
Man, youth charged in Edson car dealership fires, Whitecourt pet store fire

RCMP are still looking for the stolen Chihuahua. If you have it, you’re asked to drop it off at the Edson Animal Control Dog Pound (3240-1 Avenue) which is open between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Alternatively, the puppy can be taken to the Edson RCMP, so he can be returned to the owner.

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RCMP said a four-month-old male Chihuahua was stolen from the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt, Alta. Before it was destroyed by fire on Dec. 26, 2019. 
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RCMP said a four-month-old male Chihuahua was stolen from the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt, Alta. Before it was destroyed by fire on Dec. 26, 2019. . Supplied by RCMP
RCMP said a four-month-old male Chihuahua was stolen from the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt, Alta. Before it was destroyed by fire on Dec. 26, 2019. 
.
RCMP said a four-month-old male Chihuahua was stolen from the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt, Alta. Before it was destroyed by fire on Dec. 26, 2019. . Supplied by RCMP

Edson and Whitecourt RCMP investigated the fires with the help of other officers from the Western Alberta District, Drayton Valley and Hinton;  Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) out of Grand Prairie, and other RCMP specialized support units.

Edson RCMP Detachment Commander Sgt. Kevin Gaal, along with the Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara, are set to share more details at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

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— More to come…