Police have removed what they believe to be a pipe bomb from a Brampton church after a suspicious fire broke out at the building early Tuesday morning.
Investigators are also trying to determine if the fire is linked to another blaze that destroyed three units of an under-construction townhouse complex nearby.
A blaze broke out at St. Jerome’s Parish, a Roman Catholic church on Chinguacousy Road, shortly before 5 a.m.
“What [police]suspect is that there was a pipe bomb or something thrown into the building,” said Mariam Mesbah, a spokesperson for the city of Brampton. “They think what happened was the sprinkler system went off and sort of kept it at bay.”
The blaze was discovered by a maintenance worker who had arrived to clean the church.
When Brampton’s firefighters arrived on scene, the fire had already been extinguished by the church’s sprinkler system.
“It really was a smoke fire,” said Ms. Mesbah. “There was more smoke there than actual flames.”
When firefighters spotted a suspicious package lying on the floor, they left the church and called police.
The explosives unit of Peel police arrived and sent a robot into the building. The robot located what police believe to be a pipe bomb, although they say it may be a fake.
Investigators are not sure if the bomb has already been detonated or if it’s still live.
The bomb could have been thrown inside through a window, said Ms. Mesbah.
“Nobody has any idea of who would want to damage the church,” she said. Nothing of the sort has ever occurred in the church’s 14-year history.
Officers in bomb gear retrieved the device and put it in a transportable container. The bomb will be taken to a blast site, where police will attempt a controlled explosion.
Meanwhile, police said the church will remain closed at least until Wednesday for the investigation.
There is significant smoke damage to the building, said Ms. Mesbah, as well as possible flooding due to the sprinklers.
Earlier, around 3:30 a.m., Brampton fire crews attended to a blaze near Steeles Avenue West and Mississauga Road, less than five kilometres away from the church.
The blaze engulfed two out of six units of a townhouse complex that’s under construction and partially destroyed a third unit.
What makes the fire suspicious, said Mesbah, is that there was no electricity running to the houses yet, so the blaze could not have been sparked by an electrical malfunction.
Several other units in the complex sustained minor damage from exposure to heat.
“They basically did everything they could to keep it contained to the three units,” said Ms. Mesbah.
The Ontario Fire Marshall’s office has taken over the investigation.
Investigators are treating the two fires as connected.