RCMP finger youth in ‘suspicious’ Pelly fire

A blaze ripped through one of Pelly Crossing’s most important buildings early Thursday morning destroying the post office, the bank and an old…

A blaze ripped through one of Pelly Crossing’s most important buildings early Thursday morning destroying the post office, the bank and an old vacant tire shop.

By Thursday afternoon, RCMP had arrested the suspected arsonist — a 15-year-old male from the community.

He’s scheduled to face one charge of arson and disregarding human life in a Whitehorse court on Friday.

Meanwhile, the community is grappling with the effects of the destructive blaze.

“It’s a difficult situation for the community to deal with,” said Selkirk Groceries assistant manager Bob Pozzo from the store on Thursday.

Without light and heat, the store was closed to the public on Thursday, leaving Pelly residents without a place to buy food and supplies.

The store also acted as a de facto gathering place for people around town.

“It’s a community centre with chairs and benches in here — it’s a little different environment than a grocery store,” Pozzo explained.

Police were tipped off to the blaze after a passerby alerted Pozzo and another employee living in the motel at about 1 a.m. Thursday morning.

“He banged on the door and said: ‘Get out, fire!’”

Pozzo jumped out of bed ran outside and surveyed the damage.

“It was just raging like the Fourth of July,” he said.

“I looked at it at that point and thought, ‘there’s no way we’re going to save anything.’

“Had there been a wind of any kind blowing from the north, it would have blown the fire right into the fuel tanks,” he said.

A hard-fought battle by firefighters and local volunteers managed to contain the fire and save the store and motel, according to Yukon RCMP.

But the south end of the building, which houses the fuel tank, is gone.

“They knocked it down, so the water and fire crew could get closer inside the building,” said Pozzo, who was on the scene until 5 a.m.

“It’s a godsend that they got that under control.”

But the bank, post office and tire shop were not so lucky.

“They’re burnt out, gutted out and actually destroyed in the end of it — there’s nothing, nothing there,” said Pozzo.

By late Thursday afternoon, temperatures had dropped to nearly minus 40 degrees in the community, said Pozzo.

Facing a second night without heat, he was worried about the effect the cold winter temperatures were having on stockpiled in the shop and the pipes in the building’s walls.

By Friday morning, the store had power and a quick survey showed no damage from the cold.

Employees hope to open sometime during the day on Friday.

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