Overnight arson at Calgary City Hall causes extensive damage, closures to services

Temporary counters for city services will be set up at Calgary's Central Library starting August 4

Calgarians looking to access city services are directed away from City Hall on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Overnight on Aug. 2, an individual known to police tried to set fire to City Hall. Sprinkler systems caused extensive damage to the third floor of the building. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary city hall was the site of an overnight arson attempt, after a man set multiple fires leading to extensive third floor damage.

On Aug. 2, at around 4 a.m., Calgary Police Service responded to reports of a man with a large edged-weapon, and starting fires in the main municipal building.

Sprinkler systems caused water damage to the third floor of City Hall, with water leak damage extending to the main floor.

“We are still assessing the extent of the damage, but it’s significant enough that we will have to enact our business continuity plan,” said Carla Male, acting city manager for the City of Calgary.

Male said that the city doesn’t yet have a dollar value for the damage done.

Arson suspect known to police

Police said that the man gained access to the building by smashing the glass through a front facing window pane. Once inside, he became agitated and aggressive while starting the fires, police said.

The suspected arsonist is known to CPS as a Police and Crisis Team client.

“The thing that we can be thankful about is that this individual is already known to the police service, and to AHS, and they were able to take steps that they needed to provide support given that this was a mental health distress situation,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

“From what I can understand, none of our security team are injured—no Calgary Police Service member, and no one from our fire department either.”

Mayor Gondek said the status of the man is being kept confidential for the time being, given the sensitivity of the situation.

City services temporarily moving to Central Library

City services impacted by the damage include the Planning and Development service counter, Fair Entry, and cashier services.

The city said that temporary Fair Entry, cashier services, and taxation service counters would be opened at the Central Library. Those are expected to be available for use starting Aug. 4.

Extended hours for Fair Entry services are available at the Village Square Leisure Centre.

“There is actually minimal impact on some of our programs, especially things like land development and planning, which is also one of the impacted areas,” said Mayor Gondek.

“Many of those services went online over time, and so 90 to 95 per cent of those applications are being dealt with electronically, so there’s minimal impact to clients and to applicants,” she said.

Access to city hall will remain limited until damage assessments are complete.

Mental health support increases needed from province

According to Mayor Gondek and CPS, increased investments in mental health interventions within Calgary are essential. The service has been reporting more mental health distress calls, more overdoses, domestic violence, and other and a complex social disorder issues.

“While in many cases intervention and coordination through our partnership is successful in avoiding a mental health crisis becoming a police matter, unfortunately, there are instances that are violent in nature and require an adequate police response,” said Superintendent Asif Rashid of the Calgary Police Service.

Mayor Gondek called on the province to help with increased supports for mental health.

CPS is urging anyone with information about this incident to contact police by calling 403-266-1234.

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