Police have charged a 36-year-old man with three counts of arson after a fire at a Masonic Lodge in Toronto’s west end.
The fire started shortly before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Weston Masonic Temple on Weston Road, near Lawrence Avenue West.
There are reports a Molotov cocktail was tossed through the building’s basement window.
The blaze was small and was quickly extinguished, but it caused damage to the left side of the building.
No one was injured.
Michael Mendez was arrested just before 8 p.m. He had a bail hearing in a Toronto court on Wednesday morning.
Toronto Fire said there have been other suspicious fires in the neighbourhood, but it’s not known if they are connected to Mendez. However, police said the Masonic Temple fire was not connected to the fire at the Islamic information centre on Wednesday morning.
While news reports called it a “small fire,” reports from brethren there have noted the lodge’s dining room was destroyed. No word as to whether any damage to the lodge room itself was sustained, but it apparently cannot be used because of the overall smoke and water damage.
The building is home to several area lodges and appendant groups. It is one of just two Masonic Temples in the Humber Valley area, so they have all had to find the closest alternative meeting areas until the building can be restored.
Lodge member Chuck Scott told a TV reporter at the scene that the neighborhood had been plagued by a “firebug” who had attempted to set fire at a funeral home just across the street, among other locations. Additionally, there was a fire a week ago at a local Islamic Information Center, but early police statements have not connected that fire to the others in the neighborhood. Why it hasn’t was not explained. Speculation is circulating among neighbors that in a desire to characterize the Islamic Center fire as a “hate crime,” it seems more likely that all of the fires in the same vicinity were crimes of opportunity, and not ideologically motivated.
But hey, what do they know.
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