via The Province. June 27:
Second arson fire in Stanley Park guts work vehicles near VPD horse barn
Gerry O’Neil’s heart leapt out of his chest when the telephone rang Tuesday night.
Leaping out of bed, he had a panicky deja vu — the same time of night, the same woman on the line.
And the same desperate news — his beloved horses were in peril.
“I haven’t been sleeping much since the last fire,” said O’Neil. ‘I jumped up to leave, and I forgot my socks.
“My wife said, ‘Put them in your pocket — you might have to spend the night.’”
The Stanley Park serial arsonist had struck for the second time in a week — and O’Neil’s Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours had been hit for the second time in 16 months.
O’Neil went speeding off into the night, terrified his 14 treasured draft horses weren’t going to survive
“I was driving … fast … there were people honking at me.
“I’m sorry about that.
“But if the police had pulled me over, I would have said, ‘Turn on your lights and follow me.’”
Vancouver Fire Department Lieut. Carol Messenger points to the spot — just metres from O’Neil’s stables — where three cars were torched late Tuesday night.
“We need the public’s help — we need people to be vigilant,” said Messenger. “If anyone sees anything suspicious, or sees smouldering or smoke or fire, call 911 immediately.”
As she spoke a dozen fire officials toured the extensive barns, planning out in great detail how to save the horses in the event the arsonist — who also destroyed the Stanley Park Train entrance eight days ago — strikes for a third time.
A steady stream of fire and police vehicles swept by as she spoke, and Wednesday afternoon police and fire officials met with parks board employees for an afternoon strategy session.
VPD Sgt. Doug McMillan hurried down to make sure all of the 13 prized steeds of the Vancouver Mounted Police Unit were safe.
“It’s scary,” said McMillan, who heads the unit.
“The park is open at night, and there are people living in the park.
“These guys are so valuable to us. We do a lot of public relations, parades, crowd control.
“The Olympics, the Stanley Cup riot — they were all there.”
McMillan said the 13 horses will be moved to indoor stalls at night — usually they sleep outside — as a precautionary move as investigators begin the needle-in-the-haystack search, wary the serial arsonist may strike again.
Emotion wells up in O’Neil as he thinks of the two near-misses, twice when his horses were at risk.
“I see them more than my wife,” said O’Neil, choking back a tear as he nuzzled Weiser, a magnificent 14-year-old Clydesdale.
“I thought, ‘This may be the night.’
“I think we have to have people here 24 hours a day, and have cameras.”