Trucking company loses multiple vehicles in suspected arson

WHEN Paul Brar saw the burned remains of the trucking business he started as a newcomer to Canada, what is now being investigated as a case of arson felt more like a murder.

VB Roadways Inc., on Goldenrod Drive in the Rural Municipality of Rosser, was the site of a suspected arson in the morning hours of Jan. 20, according to an RCMP news release Tuesday.

Brar, company co-owner, said of nine semi-trucks on site, seven were burned, including trailers that held product meant to be sent out to cities across Canada and the United States.

He estimated the total cost of damages at around $7 million, which doesn’t include the cost of losing multiple contracts, including a $1.38-million deal made last year with American manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co., Brar added. VB Roadways has backed out of the agreement because it no longer has the trucks needed to fulfil it, he said.

“It was shocking to me, we have not recovered yet,” Brar said Tuesday.

Investigators are seeking anyone with information about the fire just outside the northwest edge of Winnipeg.

Brar said he saw a bottle containing diesel and a rope hanging outside of one of the semi-trucks saved from the blaze.

As for motive, Brar said it hasn’t been determined.

“We’ve never had issues with anyone. We grew up very fast in the past two years, it’s probably within our community even, jealousy or something like that,” he said.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said he couldn’t comment on what led investigators to believe the fire was criminal.

The estimated cost of damages was unique, as no structures were involved in the blaze, he said.

“In terms of the damage estimate, it may not be something we see too often. A lot of the times, if a building is destroyed… you can imagine the cost associated to the loss,” Manaigre said.

Brar immigrated to Canada from India in 2010 and worked as a truck driver before starting a company of his own in 2014.

The business expanded in 2020, and Brar bought two more semis in October.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Truck yard co-owner Paul Brar with some of his remaining trailers Tuesday. Brar alleges that 7 of his semi-trucks were intentionally destroyed in a fire, causing $7 million in damages.

Now, during one of the busiest trucking seasons of the year, it is out of business for the foreseeable future.

The company is working with Manitoba Public Insurance and hopes to receive some level of reimbursement after the investigation is completed, Brar said. However, he does not have business insurance and the loss of work will not be recovered, he said.

“We never thought that this could happen — all our trucks on fire and we would have nothing,” he said. “Usually, one or two trucks could be in an accident or something like that. We never thought about (this).”

It will take years to recover what has been lost, Brar said.

“I don’t know what people think, but for me and my business partner, it was our life. We spent two years, and this was our passion. Today we are in a position of crisis. And this is kind of a murder.”

Police ask anyone with information to contact Headingley RCMP at 204-888-0358 or Manitoba Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477