Family of 10 loses everything in West St. Paul, Man. arson

When Michael Bingham and his family moved to West St. Paul, Man., they were looking to escape city life.

“You don’t have to worry about listening to sirens, and people running through your yard and stuff like that, you know?” he said.

On Sept. 1, 2023, Bingham and nine other family members began renting a house on Pipeline Road. Bingham says the household, which included his daughters and three grandchildren, enjoyed evenings together on the back porch.

“I wanted to have something like this,” Bingham said.

Bingham says his family enjoyed evenings in the backyard, and moved to escape the busyness of the city. Submitted: Michael Bingham

But in the early morning of Nov. 27, one of Bingham’s daughters woke him up, saying she smelled smoke. The family quickly searched the house and found a fire in the garage.

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“It was like…just go, just grab the kids, go out to the car, get out, don’t come back in,” Bingham said.

The family of 10 all managed to evacuate as the fire moved from the garage to the house. They watched the flames grow from their vehicles across the street until the fire department arrived.

Michael Bingham and his family lost everything they owned in what Manitoba RCMP say was an arson. Submitted: Michael Bingham

“It was just a big inferno,” Bingham said. “It was pretty bad. I couldn’t believe how fast it went up.”

The family drove to Winnipeg and spent the night there, before seeking temporary shelter with help from the Red Cross. The house and everything inside was a total loss.

“Everything that we had in this world is all in that big rubble pile over there,” Bingham told Global News, gesturing to the pile of fenced-off debris where the house stood.

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Manitoba RCMP have since determined the fire was set deliberately.

In a press release, RCMP say they have surveillance footage showing a vehicle driving up a tree line near the property. The vehicle stops, and a person walks to the house and lights it on fire before going back to the vehicle and driving away. Manitoba RCMP are not releasing the video publicly at this time.

Bingham said the news shocked him.

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“I just can’t believe someone would actually come and do that, even if they knew the house was empty. But it makes it even worse, if they knew there were people in there, especially little kids,” he said, adding the family’s numerous vehicles were parked outside in plain view.

Data from Manitoba RCMP say there have so far been 349 arsons in 2023. Numbers from the past five years show a decrease during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In the past five years, there have been 1683 arsons. RCMP say charges were forwarded to the Crown in 229 of the investigations.

Manitoba RCMP

Manitoba RCMP also say there is no evidence to suggest the Pipeline Road arson is connected to the one on Liss Road in St. Andrews earlier this year, where a doorbell camera caught two suspects pulling up to a home and setting a vehicle on fire before fleeing the property.

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Global News also spoke with the owner of the house, who said they did not know who set the fire, and was relieved everyone got out safely.

For now, the family is tasked with searching for new places to live in the midst of a rental and cost of living crisis. Bingham says it’s unlikely all 10 will live together again, and that they’re looking for places back in Winnipeg.

“My one daughter is just scared to have any house with a garage attached to it,” he said. “You try to put on a brave face, just so that the kids don’t see it. You know, they don’t understand what’s going on,” Bingham said.

Bingham says he misses having a communal space for the family as they’re in housing limbo.

“We can’t sit down and have coffee or watch movies or play with the grandchildren or do anything. There’s nothing. That part of our lives right now is gone,” he said.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family, as they did not have tenants’ insurance.

Manitoba RCMP say the investigation continues, and anyone with information or surveillance footage is encouraged to call them at 204-482-1222, or to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.