Police detail recovery efforts after fire at Clarington evidence storage warehouse

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Published October 12, 2022 at 3:21 pm

Durham Regional Police have broken their silence on the massive fire at their evidence storage warehouse in Courtice over the summer.

The blaze erupted on July 17, shutting down portions of Hwy. 401, keeping firefighters busy for hours and destroying mountains of evidence. The facility housed the vehicles involved in major collisions, seized in investigations and stored the service’s vintage cars.

Firefighters were on the scene for hours to contain the inferno. However, the building was fully engulfed by the time they arrived. Ultimately the entire vehicle bay and all the cars in it were destroyed.

No one was trapped in the fire and no injuries were reported.

Police concluded the fire was not an arson case the following day, while the fire marshall has not released their report. That said it remained a “significant and unprecedented event” according to Chief Todd Rollauer in an update to Durham Regional Council.

“I am so proud of everyone that from day one rallied to ensure we didn’t skip a beat in providing the same level of policing services our community has come to expect,” he continued.

The Durham police response was indeed swift. The day after the blaze, they formed Project Phoenix to “manage recovery and ensure no impact to frontline policing.”

By July 20, the service had ordered new work kits for the K-9 Unit after all but one were lost in the fire. The K-9 unit was fully operational again within 9 days.

During their update on July 18, in which they shared their conclusion the fire was non-suspicious, Durham police noted it would take some weeks before they could get inside to assess damages. Despite this delay, all drugs and money stored at the warehouse were removed by July 25.

The service’s quartermaster, who manages equipment, was previous set up in the facility. By August 10 they were operating again out of a new headquarters. Durham police began removing the equipment lost in the quartermaster’s section the following day.

On August 16, the property storage area was also deemed safe and officers began removing everything. This was completed by September 23.

Part of Project Phoenix entails the development of a replacement storage facility. Dubbed Clarington Phase 2, Rollauer expects the new warehouse to be operational by late 2024 or early 2025.

In the meantime, Durham police have acquired a temporary storage facility from the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority near the lakeshore and had fully vacated the Clarington site as of last Friday.

According to Rollauer the service is working closely with provincial and federal crown prosecutors regarding ongoing cases now missing evidence. However, he noted that while the physical items had been destroyed, the evidence had been thoroughly recorded and photographed.

The cause of the fire remains unknown as of Rollauer’s update. It will be revealed in the Fire Marshall report which remains about two months out.

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