A 37-year-old Pickering woman is facing arson- and mischief-related charges after Durham Regional Police say a vehicle was rammed into a garage and a fire quickly spread to the home.
Adam West, a kitchen contractor working on Secord Street in Pickering’s west end close to the Rouge River, told reporters he was working about a dozen houses away at around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday when he said he heard the car hit the garage. He quickly began shooting video on his cellphone after the third strike and ultimately captured 23 minutes of the harrowing incident, posting it on YouTube.
“It was pretty wild actually,” West said, adding he began filming to ensure there was proper documentation of what was happening.
“At least evidence is good for something.”
In the video, a blue car can be seen ramming into the garage. West and others could be seen at the driveway of the property. At one point after the vehicle stopped moving, West entered the garage. After yelling at the driver to not reverse, the video showed some materials on fire being discarded inside the car. In a matter of minutes, the flames intensified.
After he backed away, West began banging on doors at the home and properties nearby to warn people about the fire.
“(I) tried to prevent people from getting hurt. Fire spreads fast and don’t want children–you never know what’s around anyway,” he said.
Anthony Colasuonno, West’s business partner, was also working nearby and he recalled how he called 911 and asked the dispatcher to “send everybody.” He also described how he approached the driver and urged her to get out of the garage while the accused was throwing debris inside the car.
“She was trying to make the fire bigger and bigger,” Colasuonno said before he and others grabbed her to pull her away from the car.
As the fire grew, he said the driver ran to the backyard of the home.
Officials said a person was taken to a hospital by paramedics to be assessed and a firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.
Askaalu Tafere, who lives close to where the incident happened, said she didn’t hear what happened until someone banged at her front door to tell her there was a fire.
“We could have lost our lives if it was happening at nighttime. We’re glad it happened at daytime,” she said.
“We thought our house would burn.”
Ultimately the damage was contained to the side of Tafere’s house.
In an update on the investigation released Wednesday morning, officers said the woman driving the vehicle was found near the burning house and taken into custody under provisions contained in Ontario’s Mental Health Act.
The accused, who wasn’t identified, was charged with arson damaging property, dangerous operation of a conveyance, mischief/damage to property over $5,000 and mischief to property endangering life.
Investigators with the Office of the Fire Marshal were also at the scene on Wednesday collecting evidence.
Meanwhile, anyone with information about what happened was asked to call investigators at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 2529 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.