Keith Johns, secretary-treasurer of Johns Nursery and Market Gardens Ltd. and the owner of the land and building that Johns Garden & Gift Centre was leasing when it was consumed in flames on June 9, appeared at a police press conference on Wednesday to make the announcement.
“On June 9, 2012, an unknown person or persons burnt Johns Garden Centre to the ground,” he read in a prepared statement. “The building and contents were a total loss. I have a total of $5,000 that I am personally offering to any individual, or divided amongst any individuals, who can identify the person or persons responsible for this crime.
“If you are aware of who this might be, please contact the Prince Albert Police Service with your information. Once the file is solved with positive identification of the person or persons responsible, the police service will instruct me as to who is eligible for the reward.”
Following the blaze, police immediately considered the case to be suspicious. Sgt. Jason Stonechild said the department’s Criminal Investigation Division is still investigating the matter.
Johns Nursery and Market Gardens has been in business in the Prince Albert area for three generations. Having sold its retail business, the company’s chief source of income was leasing the land and building out at 433 South Industrial Drive. The Johns Garden & Gift Centre sold trees, shrubs and Christmas ornaments year-round before falling victim to the fire.
All we know is that someone came in and did start the fire because there was an accelerant used and we do know that for a fact, so we sure would like to see who started this fire be caught and dealt with. - Keith Johns
Following the inferno, Johns’ company lost its chief source of income. Prevented from doing business in the ruined structure due to liability issues, the renters were forced to move to another site south of Prince Albert.
“Now we’re kind of left without any income and having to re-build the business and building and put a new renter in there, so it’s going to take some time,” Johns said. “I don’t know if we’ll be ready by Christmas or beyond, but it’s going to take some time to get that property back in shape.”
Evidence at the scene suggested someone intentionally started the fire, but additional data proved scarce.
“We’ve given all the information that we have to the police and they’re doing the investigation,” Johns said. “I don’t have any person identified and I don’t have any other information. All we know is that someone came in and did start the fire because there was an accelerant used and we do know that for a fact, so we sure would like to see who started this fire be caught and dealt with.”
Anyone with information leading to the capture of the arsonist(s) can call the Prince Albert Police Service at 953-4222 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.