Man accused of setting five fires in downtown Kamloops expected to plead guilty, lawyer tells court

Accused arsonist to plead?

A Kamloops man accused of sparking five blazes in the city’s downtown core on the heels of one of the most extreme wildfire seasons on record is expected to plead guilty, according to his lawyer.

Blake Mathew Hall is facing five counts of arson and one count each of mischief under $5,000 and uttering threats.

The 41-year-old was arrested on Sept. 6 after five fires were sparked in quick succession in downtown Kamloops.

Court heard Hall was upset after being refused entry to the Emerald Centre shelter on West Victoria Street.

Crown prosecutor Alexander Wheele said in court on Wednesday that Hall is alleged to have left the facility punching windows and threatening to burn it down. Wheele said Mounties were at the scene taking photos of the damage when calls began to come in about a number of suspicious fires burning nearby.

“They were photographing the scene when they received reports from another officer of a nearby fire in a dumpster that had been set,” he said.

“In short succession they received reports or located a total of five fires in this small radius around that area — I believe three of them in dumpsters, one in a garbage can and one in a small grass area.”

Wheele said Kamloops Fire Rescue crews made quick work of the small blazes.

Court heard Hall was arrested near the fifth fire. Wheele said he was found to have a lighter and butane fuel in his pockets.

Wheele said Hall told Mounties he set the fires because he was mad about being denied a bed at the shelter.

“What the officers understood from Mr. Hall, talking to him at that point, was that he was upset about not being given entrance into the shelter — that’s why he had set the fires and that he had done so because he wanted a bed and some food for the night,” he said.

Defence lawyer Marcel Laflamme said his client will likely plead guilty.

“I can indicate to the court that in the long run, there will probably be disposition of the charge without a trial,” he said. “So that will simplify the matter.”

Hall was in court on Wednesday seeking bail on terms previously agreed to by Wheele and Laflamme.

Kamloops provincial court Judge Ray Phillips refused to rubber-stamp the bail agreement and demanded more information, citing the serious wildfire season that recently ended.

“The allegations are quite serious,” Phillips said.

“It came [right after] a very troubling summer we had with fire that caused a lot of damage across this province, potentially a lot of damage here in the city — exposing the community to risk. How does this plan protect [the community] or reduce that risk?”

Laflamme pointed to Hall’s very brief criminal history, while Wheele said he would be seeking detention but for the strong bail plan — which will see Hall undergoing residential treatment at Vision Quest near Logan Lake for a minimum of six months.

Phillips eventually agreed to the bail terms. Hall is due back in court on Nov. 1.

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