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Man arrested in 2011 Yonge building fire

Toronto police have arrested a 53-year-old Toronto man they say is responsible for the massive fire that claimed a heritage building at Yonge and Gould streets last year.

Stewart Poirier is accused of nine charges, including attempted murder, in two separate fires. Police believe he is also responsible for a Thursday fire on Sackville Street, near Queen and Parliament.

“The evidence we have before us would seem to indicate that these are deliberate acts, these are calculated and there has been some planning involved,” Insp. Gary Meissner said at a news conference Monday.

Poirier has been charged with arson, mischief endangering life, attempted murder and failing to comply with probation in the Jan. 3, 2011, fire at 335 Yonge St. and the Sackville fire. Police had issued a warrant after Poirier failed to report to his probation officer. He was arrested on Friday.

He is being held in jail until a court appearance at Old City Hall on Thursday morning.

Meissner wouldn’t comment on whether he thought Poirier had been hired to set the fire although he said “that particular aspect of the investigation is still open.”

The owners of the heritage building had applied to have the building demolished before it was destroyed in the fire.

Reacting to the arrest in an exclusive interview on CityNews Channel on Monday afternoon, Toronto police chief Bill Blair said: “We’re very pleased with the outcome of this investigation. These things sometimes take a very long time but the investigators persevered and today we’re able to announce an arrest.”
 
The now-demolished Empress Hotel building, built in 1888, sat at Yonge and Gould streets at the edge of the Ryerson University campus.

The structure had housed two restaurants — Salad King and Tatami Sushi — until part of the north wall collapsed in April 2010.

Lalani Corp., which owned the building, applied to have it demolished. But the city voted in July 2010 to designate it a heritage property making it difficult to have it torn down.

Then in January 2011, arson caused irreparable damage to the structure, and though police released security video of a “person of interest,” the case remained unsolved for a year and a half.

Salad King has since reopened not far away on Yonge.