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Three arson suspects turn themselves in, says Coquitlam RCMP

Three suspects who were photographed near a cabin on Widgeon Creek shortly minutes before it was engulfed in flames have been taken into custody.  - SUBMITTED PHOTO
Three suspects who were photographed near a cabin on Widgeon Creek shortly minutes before it was engulfed in flames have been taken into custody.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

When David Clarke noticed that vandals had been trespassing at his family's cabin on the east bank of Widgeon Creek a few years ago, he decided to install a hunting camera in a nearby tree to survey the property when no one was there.

Fast-forward to today and the pictures shot with the $199 eight-megapixel Bushnell Trophy Cam are now being credited with helping identify a trio of suspected arsonists after the cabin was torched earlier this month.

On Monday night, less than an hour after the images were broadcast by several media outlets, three men turned themselves into police. According to Mounties, their names are not being released as they have not yet been charged.

"Despite the loss of the cabin, we are very grateful for the high-quality images captured by the owners' CCTV cameras," said Coquitlam RCMP Const. Chris Nordlund. "It would be difficult to bring the investigation to where we are at right now without the high-resolution photographs."

Nordlund encouraged business and property owners to consider purchasing surveillance systems, noting that with today's technology, clear images can often help investigators quickly identify suspects. The cameras that were rolling at around 9 p.m. on July 7 — the approximate time the blaze was set — had a one-year battery life and 32 gigabytes of memory, making it capable of storing thousands of images.

Clarke, one of the family members who shares ownership of the cabin, said he didn't mind when he saw pictures of people stopping by the property to go for a swim or turn their boat around but he became increasingly concerned about vandals and overnight campers.

"We noticed the we were having a few issues," he said. "In order to get some... peace of mind, I had cameras keeping on eye on the place."

The blaze was hot enough to scorch trees 20-feet away and even the Bushnell Trophy Cam was slightly melted from the heat, although the memory card was not damaged.

Clarke said he is surprised the fire was contained to the structure and did not spread to the rest of the trees and bushes around the property. The blaze could have been much worse, he said.

"It makes no sense to us why someone would do this on purpose," Clarke said. "If you look around at these trees, I am absolutely surprised it all didn't go up."

"You could have had a dandy," added Norm Bradford, an 84-year-old family friend who helped build the cabin back in 1955.

The structure was initially built as a rest stop for duck hunters, Bradford said, but over the years had turned into a summer retreat for the families connected to the property.

While there is a possibility that the cabin will be rebuilt, the memories are lost forever, he said.

Each person who visited the property over its 59-year history marked his or her name in a log book and photographs ranging from the time the structure was being built to recent vacations were in the cabin when it burned.

"That's the killer," Clarke said. "We had log books with the weather, the water level. We had the pictures. All of that information — the entire history is gone."

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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