Oshawa’s fatal Olive Avenue fire was started by a child, homicide unit concludes

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Published December 14, 2021 at 2:28 pm

A fire in an Olive Avenue rowhouse last March that claimed the lives of four people – including two children – was started by a child, concluded Durham Police’s homicide unit after a lengthy investigation.

The child, who is under 12, will not be charged.

The fire broke out in the middle of the night on March 21, 2021. The flames quickly spread to neighbouring rowhouses, ravaging one house in particular.

The flames were so intense fire crews could not enter the homes to conduct rescues as the entrances were blocked. In the immediate aftermath two men were found dead, two boys were missing, seven houses were destroyed or damaged, and eight people lost their homes.

The next day the specialized Toronto Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team was brought in to search the burned-out wreckage of the homes. The fire has caused major structural damage to the buildings and it was unsafe for standard crews to search.

During the search, the bodies of the two missing boys were discovered.

Police identified the four victims days later as Terrence Pottie, 66, Paul LeBlanc, 57, and brothers Cristian Duguay-Sterling, 11, and Lucas Duguay-Sterling, 9.

“We are extremely saddened to learn of this tragic event,” Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said in a statement just after the fire. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who have been impacted during this difficult time. Our appreciation goes out to the first responders including our fire crews.”

Oshawa fire chief Derrick Clark said it was one of the most difficult fires the crews had ever encountered. “I know the public sees us racing down the street with the lights and siren going, but they don’t often see this side of the job, and it takes its toll.”

He said it was the “worst day,” they had ever faced.

The Durham Police Homicide unit was brought in to investigate after information was brought to the police indicating the fire may have been arson. A/Sgt. George Tudos did not specify what that evidence was at the time.

After a nearly ten-month investigation, homicide detectives have concluded the fire was started by a child under 12 years old. A DRPS news release did not specify how they reached this conclusion.

It did however say, “based on the totality of the circumstances and in accordance with legislation, no charges will be laid in relation to this incident.”

Photo by Stephen Bialecki

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