A North Burnaby house being probed for its link to a fugitive United Nations gang leader was severely damaged in a suspected arson fire Thursday.
Neighbours of the house at 7350 Pandora St. called 911 about 4:22 a.m. as flames were shooting up the entire front of the palatial view property.
Until this past April, the $1.6 million house was owned by Conor Vincent D'Monte, who was charged Jan. 24 with first-degree murder in the 2009 Langley slaying of Red Scorpion gang member Kevin LeClair.
Despite being wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, D'Monte visited a lawyer at the Metropolis at Metrotown mall on April 1 and signed the house over to his wife Jennifer Kong for a dollar.
The Vancouver Sun revealed details of the suspicious transaction June 20, prompting both the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the Real Estate Council of B.C. to review the sale.
Now Burnaby RCMP's arson team is also investigating the circumstances of the suspicious blaze.
Sgt. Lorin Lopetinsky said there were two people inside the home when the emergency calls started coming in Thursday morning. Both escaped without injury, he said.
Firefighters arrived on the scene just four minutes after the first call came in and quickly extinguished the fire.
"It is a suspicious fire. Certainly we are investigating it as an arson," he said.
Lopetinsky said Burnaby RCMP would be working with its Lower Mainland policing partners, including IHIT, in the arson investigation.
IHIT Insp. Kevin Hackett said members of his team met with the Burnaby investigators Thursday morning.
When D'Monte was first charged, police searched the same Burnaby house looking for him or for information that might lead police to him. D'Monte, 33, and his co-accused Cory Vallee, 34, are now on Interpol's most wanted list.
Investigators at the fire scene Thursday morning appeared to focus on two large propane tanks that were found under the stairs to the front door - the area of the home that sustained the most damage.
Neighbours continued to stop by and described being awakened by sirens and looking out to see intense flames.
Several of the neighbours called 911, as did the occupants of the house.
The 4,700-square-foot house has been listed for sale since June 1. The initial price was $1,588,000, but the most recent listing for the property says the asking price is now $1,358,000.
The real estate ad boasted "stunning water and mountain views situated on a quiet street in a fantastic neighbourhood" and says the home is newly renovated with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, two fireplaces and a fully finished basement. It is on the side of Burnaby Mountain in a neighbourhood known as Westridge that overlooks Burrard Inlet.
D'Monte's alleged victim, LeClair, was shot to death outside an IGA grocery store in a busy strip mall about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The targeted hit was one of several during a bloody gang war in early 2009.
D'Monte, raised on the west side of Vancouver, also goes by the aliases Brian Black and Manuel Ortega.
Police are urging anyone who knows the whereabouts of D'Monte or Vallee to call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-4448.