WESTLOCK – Westlock RCMP have confirmed the Jan. 31 overnight blaze that gutted the Old Timers Cabin, one of the area’s noted historic buildings located on the Westlock Agricultural Society’s property on the west side of town just off the Old Pickardville Road, was arson and they’re now asking for help from the public to solve the case.
Westlock RCMP Detachment acting commander Cpl. Riley Sutherland said March 23 that testing has confirmed that “accelerants” were used to start the fire which takes it from “suspicious” to a full-blown arson investigation. With the smell of burned wood still hanging in the air the morning of the blaze, Town of Westlock fire chief Stuart Koflick said around 4 a.m. they were dispatched to the site after passersby saw smoke coming from the structure — along with the town, Westlock County fire crews also pitched in to fight the blaze. The southeast corner of the building, which is where one of two doors and steps are, suffered most of the damage — for context, the building is only open to the public during the annual ag fair, last held in August 2022, and was not connected to power.
“We still don’t have anything as no one has come forward with any extra information yet,” said Sutherland. “If we’re not sure if it’s accidental, we treat it as suspicious so that’s why we had samples taken to get tested. We’re trying to investigate it as thoroughly as possible, but we don’t have any suspects which puts us at a bit of a standstill.”
People with tips are encouraged to call the detachment at 780-349-4492, while if you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.P3Tips.com or by using the “P3 Tips” app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store. Sutherland also noted that there was no video surveillance of the site, “which makes it slightly more challenging for us.”
“Absolutely, if anyone has any tips, they should give us a call,” she added.
The cabin’s history
According to past reporting by the Westlock News, the cabin was an old food booth on the fairgrounds before volunteers decided to renovate it around 1951 and put it to a different use. During the 2019 fair, the last before the event went on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Westlock and District Old Timers Association celebrated its 100th anniversary with a cake cutting during their tea-and-biscuits event in the little cabin that’s been on the ag grounds since 2011 — previously, the building was located in Mountie Park.
The story of the association goes back to 1919, when a collection of early pioneers to the area formed the Pioneer Association “to provide a meeting place to honour the settlers each year, visit and reminisce about good times” while in 1938 the name was changed to the Westlock and District Old Timers Association.