A fire that police are calling suspicious destroyed a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., early Saturday.
Videos posted to social media show a large fire and clouds of billowing smoke coming from the building.
The blaze broke out at one of two facilities raided by commercial fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia earlier this week protesting the “moderate livelihood” fishery launched by Sipekne’katik First Nation last month. Mi’kmaw fishers were storing their catches at the facilities.
In a news release Saturday morning, the RCMP said they responded to the blaze at about midnight Saturday. Police say the fire is suspicious, and a man is in hospital with life-threatening injuries believed to be related to the fire. The release said police are investigating.
Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce later told CBC News that the injured person is an “adult male who is considered a person of interest.”
Eel Brook Fire Chief Jonathan LeBlanc told CBC News that fire crews responded to a fire at a “large commercial structure” at 1065 Highway 335 at about midnight.
“When we arrived, the building was fully involved and was beyond saving at that point,” he said. “So we immediately went to trying to protect the exposures in the other buildings nearby. Eventually we did get things under control and contained, but the building was levelled.”
LeBlanc said eight fire departments and between 80 and 100 firefighters were on scene. He said the West Pubnico fire department stayed behind to monitor the situation and ensure the fire doesn’t pick back up again.
Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack confirmed to CBC that the fire happened at one of the two pounds raided earlier in the week in Middle West Pubnico. The other pound that was raided was in New Edinburgh, N.S.
‘Very bad news’
Sack said the fire was “very bad news to wake up to.” He reiterated his call to the federal government “to step in and make sure safety is ensured.”
Tensions have been simmering for weeks in the province’s southwest, sparked by the launch of a moderate livelihood lobster fishery by the Sipekne’katik band outside the federally mandated commercial season on Sept. 17 — 21 years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of Donald Marshall Jr.
The landmark decision affirmed the Mi’kmaw right to earn a “moderate livelihood” from fishing. The court later said the federal government could regulate the Mi’kmaw fishery but must justify any restrictions it placed on it.
LISTEN | Mi’kmaw fisherman Jason Marr talks about having his vehicle torched in Middle West Pubnico earlier in the week:
Information Morning – NS8:11Mi’kmaw fisherman describes barricading himself inside lobster pound as mob vandalized vehicles outside