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Second fire strikes Mississauga townhouse project Add to ...

Police and fire officials in Mississauga spent the day combing through a sea of smouldering rubble and ash for clues after a "suspicious" fire tore through a construction site, destroying and damaging scores of unfinished townhouses.

Preliminary estimates pegged the cost of Monday night's fire at between $6-million and $10-million. Peel Regional Police appealed for help yesterday from witnesses who may have seen anything unusual beforehand.

In February, a smaller fire at the same location caused $1-million in damage to eight houses in what is believed to have been arson, and the latest blaze stirred speculation that the firebug had returned.

However, police said there was no immediate evidence that Monday's huge fire was deliberately set.

Arsonists commonly use an accelerant, leaving behind a "hot spot" readily identifiable to investigators.

So far none has been discovered, said Constable Wayne Patterson of Peel police.

"It's suspicious, obviously, for a number of reasons. One is that it's such a big fire. Two, we had one back in February. Also, I'm told by the fire department that it spread really quickly," Constable Patterson said.

"But it's all lumber and it's all open, so that might just be why."

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion, one in hospital.

At its height around 11 p.m., the three-alarm blaze was being battled by 11 pumper trucks, six support vehicles and about 50 firefighters, said Mississauga Fire Department spokesman Kevin Duffy.

In all, 96 high-end townhouses are under construction at the site near the intersection of Burnhamthorpe Road East and Ponytrail Drive, a half-hour drive west of Toronto.

Of those, around 57 were damaged, including more than a dozen that burned to the ground. All 57 will likely have to be razed and rebuilt.

The developer, Dunpar Homes, said each unit was worth between $500,000 and $625,000 and that most had already been sold.

The fire took about two hours to bring under control.

It caused temporary power outages affecting between 400 and 500 people in the area. As well, it damaged Rogers cables that provide Internet and Internet phone service, leaving residents reliant on cellphones.

Mr. Duffy said much of the scene has yet to be examined.

"We've got a lot of people looking at that and we don't have any clear indication [of the cause]at this point," he said. "We're going to have to take the buildings apart, but there's areas we can't approach right now because of the danger of collapse."

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