An early morning fire on Jan. 11 forced classes to be cancelled at Drinkwater Elementary School. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

An early morning fire on Jan. 11 forced classes to be cancelled at Drinkwater Elementary School. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley school fires deemed suspicious

Two fires in one week

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have deemed two school fires this week suspicious.

Classes were first cancelled Monday at Drinkwater Elementary after an overnight fire.

“On Jan. 11 at around 3:30 a.m., a police officer was conducting proactive patrols of the community and located a fire outside of Drinkwater Elementary…” said an RCMP news release. “The fire appeared to have engulfed an exterior wall and was spreading towards the roof. Police officers used fire extinguishers to put out the flames and prevent further spread.”

A crew from North Cowichan’s South End fire hall stopped the spread inside the building and recommended cancelling classes so they could work to clear the school of smoke.

SEE RELATED: Classes cancelled for Mount Prevost students today

SEE RELATED: Classes cancelled at Drinkwater Elementary after fire

On Jan. 15, for the second time this week, another fire was reported at a school in Cowichan. This time the flames were reported around 7:10 a.m.

“A neighbour notified teachers of a fire outside of École Mount Prevost on Somenos Road…” said the RCMP release. “Police attended within minutes and again used fire extinguishers to control the fire until the North Cowichan [South End] Fire Department attended.”

Again, the fire caused damage and sent smoke into classrooms, forcing the cancellation of classes for the day.

“We’re very grateful to both the North Cowichan Fire Department and the North Cowichan Duncan RCMP for the swift response to the fires and their subsequent investigations,” said Candace Spilsbury, chair of the Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District. “The disruption to our classes at both these schools, especially during this global pandemic, has added a level of complexity to the lives of students and staff that is truly unnecessary.”

The RCMP and Cowichan Valley School District are working with a number of partners including specialized fire investigators and the North Cowichan Fire Department to collect more information about what RCMP are calling “suspicious” fires.

“Based on the similarities in the calls and their locations outside of schools, an investigation will attempt to establish how and why these fires started and who was involved,” said the release.

“We are relieved that there were no injuries to students, staff, or first responders from these fires, and that the fires were contained quickly,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Swain. “Investigations like this with our partners highlight the good work that so many people do to keep the community safe.”

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Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Ecole Mount Prevost School on Feb. 15. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Ecole Mount Prevost School on Feb. 15. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

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