Firefighters can be seen in the lower-left side of the photo hosing down the still smouldering building at Khalsa Centre summer camp. The building, partially used as a gym and partially used as a storage facility, is one of 17 buildings at the camp. Photo courtesy of Sundeep Kaur.

Building at Mission summer camp destroyed in fire, RCMP say arson suspected

Khalsa Centre summer camp was closed due to COVID-19, 17 staff were present on site

Police suspect arson as the cause of a fire which ‘fully engulfed’ a building at a Mission summer camp in the early-morning hours of Aug. 6.

Mission police and firefighters arrived to the Khalsa Centre summer camp just before 2 a.m. after responding to reports of a structure fire, said the Mission RCMP. The camp is located on the 14000 block of Stave Lake Road, a rural area with minimal cell phone coverage.

No persons were inside the building and nobody was injured as a result of the fire, police say.

“After an initial investigation, police believe the fire may have been deliberately set. The Mission RCMP Serious Crime Unit has currently been assigned to the case,” reads a news release from the Mission RCMP. “At this point the suspects and their motivation behind this act are unknown.”

Police couldn’t comment on the details which led them to suspect arson, and Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer with the Mission RCMP detachment emphasized that determination is not certain yet.

“The fact that it was deliberately set is not confirmed yet,” Berze said. “There’s just some initial observations on scene that led investigators to that belief.”

Khalsa Centre does not have any kids attending their summer camp this year due to COVID-19 and their facilities are closed. There were 17 staff on site, made up of summer students doing virtual camps and programming, along with caretakers, according to Sundeep Kaur, the camp’s director.

She said the building is used partially as a gym and partially as a storage facility, and is one of 17 other buildings scattered around the camp.

Staff weren’t even aware there was a fire until emergency crews arrived and woke them up, according to Kaur.

“We don’t know what time they arrived … Firefighters were fighting the fire for over an hour before we were woken up,” she said. “We did not call the fire department, someone else called … saying there was a bushfire.”

Ongoing summer plans for staff at the camp are unknown at this time, Kaur said.

“I just came inside to dry off … We’re still very much in shock. It’s very very shocking,” she said. “We’re saddened this happened, like we worked very hard to make sure – with camps being shut down and no revenue coming in – to maintain our facility so we can open next year.

“Our phones been ringing off the hook with thoughts and prayers, so we appreciate that and hope the support continues.”

The Mission RCMP are requesting anyone with information relating to this case contact their office at 604-826-7161 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online at solvecrime.ca.

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