A Toronto man serving time for a string of break-and-enters has now been charged with a series of arsons that caused $1-million in damage to west-end properties more than four years ago.
Dallas Rostant, 30, is accused of setting fire to homes, garages and cars as he moved north between Shaw Street and Christie Street over a half-hour in the early morning of July 2, 2007.
The accused is currently serving a 40-month sentence for six break-and-enters in Toronto homes in the spring of 2010, one only a few blocks from where the 2007 fires were set. Investigators collected DNA evidence at the arson scene four years ago, but only made a match after Mr. Rostant was required to provide a DNA sample after his break-and-enter convictions.
It took 200 firefighters and close to 60 fire trucks more than four hours to fight the blazes, which damaged 13 homes in the neighbourhood north of Christie Pits Park.
Steve Lavery returned from vacation with his family to find their garage torched. The heat of the blaze seared the backyard to dirt and melted the vinyl siding off neighbouring homes on Melville Avenue, he said.
"Fires are devastating enough – and to think that somebody lit it on purpose?" said Mr. Lavery, who has lived in the neighbourhood for a decade. "That's just scary."
Mr. Lavery said it took two years to clean up and rebuild the gutted garage, which had housed a lawnmower, bikes and other possessions. Two adjacent garages were also set alight and completely levelled. "The garage was a write-off," Mr. Lavery said.
He said he's thankful they weren't home at the time, as his baby son's bedroom window faced the garage.
No one was injured in the blazes, although a family cat was killed in a house on Shaw Street which was heavily damaged. One fire spread to two adjoining homes, escalating into a two-alarm fire. All of the nine blazes were set within a few blocks of each other.
Mr. Rostant appeared in court Wednesday morning to face 18 charges of arson, one count of possession of incendiary materials and one count of theft under $5,000.
Detective Sergeant Ian McArthur said police are continuing to investigate links to a number of other arson cases in Toronto that summer, which saw more than 100 suspicious fires across the city. He would not comment on a motive for the crimes, or explain how the single charge of theft was related to the arson charges.