A culvert fire on Tuesday that sent smoke billowing out from underneath Portage Avenue was the work of an arsonist, according to Winnipeg police.
The fire halted traffic on the busy street for several blocks for much of the afternoon near Albany Street beginning at around 1:40 p.m. Additional lanes in the area only started to reopen Wednesday morning.
Police say a 12-year-old boy entered the culvert on the north side of Portage Avenue and deliberately set the fire. It then spread to the lining of the drainage system, which consists of foam and poly material.
There were fears that the roadway was no longer structurally sound as a result, forcing the city to send an engineer to the site before traffic could flow again. The air quality was also tested out of concerns the plastic material inside the culvert could be emitting toxic smoke, which turned out not to be the case.
The boy was arrested about an hour after the fire started and released on a promise to appear. He’s facing arson charges and possessing an incendiary material.
Damage is estimated at $500,000.