Two cars in the same Abbotsford neighbourhood were destroyed Monday evening in a pair of suspicious fires, with residents reporting hearing loud bangs coming from one vehicle.
The vehicles were located along Oakridge Crescent and Martens Street in a residential neighbourhood south of Highway 1.
One of the vehicles belonged to recent mayoral candidate Gerda Peachey, who said she was roused from bed a little after 10 p.m. by a neighbour banging on her door.
“Gerda!” her neighbour yelled. “Your car’s on fire! The whole neighbourhood’s out!”
When Peachey emerged from her home, she said “pieces of stuff were firing down my driveway.”
She said her neighbours reported hearing a door slam and a “loud bang” shortly before the fire.
Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird said police continue to investigate. She urged the public to report any suspicious behaviour they see.
The use of fireworks has been prohibited in Abbotsford since 2005. The ban was brought into effect not long after then-mayor Mary Reeves narrowly avoided injury from a thrown incendiary device during a ride-along with police.
The explosive activity on the city’s streets drew comparisons to some war zones, and, in 2003, fireworks were blamed for 39 fires. On another year, three youth were significantly injured by the devices.
In 2016, after a fireworks industry representative asked council to ease its ban, fire chief Don Beer said the number of injuries and fires had been significantly reduced. Council later declined to lift the fireworks ban.
Police are reminding the public to stay safe on Halloween. Bird said the day usually sees a high volume of calls, but serious issues are relatively rare. Still, she said exercising caution can ensure a joyous day stays happy and fun, with the mix of vehicles, darkness, and young pedestrians of paramount concern.
“We’re just reminding people to be safe,” she said. “The last thing we need is to have a serious incident at Halloween.”
Motorists should make sure they watch for children walking, enter and leave driveways and alleys carefully, and be particularly mindful of children in dark clothing. Inexperienced motorists might also want to avoid driving, Bird advised.
Parents should know where their older children plan to head out trick-or-treating and when they plan to return home.
Kids who are not accompanied by parents should stick to familiar well-lit areas and remain with their friends, and younger children should be watched carefully by a responsible adult.
Bird also encouraged all concerned to keep their eyes off their mobile devices when they’re out and about.