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So far this year, the fire department has investigated 186 blazes in the city, compared to 189 by the end of September 2019, according to assistant fire chief Wayne Rodger.

In 2018, the fire department had investigated 196 fires by the end of September, 43 of which were ruled incendiary.

Rodger said he delved into the 2020 numbers and found there were significantly higher numbers of intentional fires in February and March — 13 and 19 respectively. Over the same months in 2019, the numbers were much lower — five and two respectively.

The site of a fire on Sept. 13, 2020 that was determined by the Saskatoon Fire Department to be incendiary -- or intentionally set. The fire destroyed Triple Crown Metals in the 200 block of Avenue I South in Riversdale. Photo taken Sept. 15, 2020 by Thia James/Saskatoon StarPhoenix
The site of a fire on Sept. 13, 2020 that was determined to be intentionally set, destroying Triple Crown Metals in the 200 block of Avenue I South. (Thia James/StarPhoenix) Photo by Thia James/Saskatoon StarPhoenix /jpg

Saskatoon police numbers show arson investigations more than doubled in the first eight months of this year compared to last year. Between January and August, police said they opened 106 arson investigations, compared to 43 in the same period in 2019.

Police noted 78 of the arson reports were in the Central Division. The StarPhoenix mapped five months worth of incendiary fires based on fire department media releases and found that many were concentrated within a strip along 22nd Street West and 19th Street West.

Police attribute the difference between their figures and the fire department’s to a couple of scenarios, including instances where police are near the scene of a fire and see it or are alerted to it by a resident. If the fire is small or has been put out, the fire department may not be called, but police classify the incident as an arson.

In the other scenario, police would reclassify a fire as an arson if, during the course of an investigation, a police arson investigator obtains new evidence.

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