Suspect arrested in arson near camp in Liberty Village: police

A suspect was arrested Friday evening in connection with an arson attack near a homeless camp in Liberty Village.

The fire broke out under the King-Liberty pedestrian bridge just before 8pm and police say they believe a suspect set the fire deliberately with a significant amount of combustible material.

The fire caused a lot of smoke and flames, but firefighters quickly brought the fire under control. No injuries were reported, but the bridge was damaged.

Police say Vincze Laszio, 28, of Scarborough, has now been charged with arson that caused property damage, general nuisance, mischief of more than $5,000 and possession of incendiary equipment.

He is due to appear in court in the old town hall on Sunday.

const. David Hopkinson said Saturday the incident could have been very tragic if one of the people staying at the nearby encampment had been injured.

In a statement released Saturday, City of Toronto spokesman Brad Ross said officials are “staying in touch with people occupying camps and encouraging them to go inside where it’s safer”.

“We’ve seen a 250 (percent) increase in camp fires in the past year. Thankfully there were no injuries last night, but life in camps is not only unsafe, it (is) unhealthy,” the statement said.

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street preacher at Sanctuary Toronto, spoke to CP24 on Sunday, criticizing the response, accusing the city of the victim’s guilt.

“This fire, clearly visible in the video, was started by someone from outside. The city’s focus should be on protecting people, not blaming them when they are targeted,” he said.

He said the city could do much more to improve safety in camps, including providing people with fire blankets and fire extinguishers and providing residents with safe heating.

“The city’s main concern is to make these camps disappear, make them invisible and make homelessness an invisible problem,” Hatlem said. “When it came to safety, their actions would be very, very different.”

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