NORTH BAY -- Fire crews in North Bay were kept busy Wednesday morning with three separate fire calls coming in before 5:30 a.m.

The most substantial fire was the last call, with crews being dispatched around 5:15 a.m. to O’Brien Street.

Officials said one occupant in the back residence of the building suffered minor injuries after escaping the building.

“The resident at the time was able to evacuate, but was injured evacuating,” said Fire Chief Jason Whiteley. “Not because of fire or smoke injuries, but just physical injuries. Paramedics took him to hospital just to get checked out. Victim services is helping that gentleman right now.”

There was a fair amount of damage to the building, and smoke damage for two connected businesses — Hoagie’s Diner and Passionate Kisses.

“I got the phone call about 5:30 this morning from the fire department,” said Kate Kuntz, owner of Hoagie’s Diner. “I don’t live far so it took me four minutes to get here. Lots of fire trucks were here already and they were trying to put out the fire ... I thought maybe it was something minor, but when I got here it was definitely not anything minor.”

Currently, there is no timeline on when Hoagie’s Diner might be able to reopen. After an already challenging year, she said this is another unwanted obstacle.

“Gosh, it feels personal now doesn’t it?" she said. "It’s been a tough year with all the lockdowns and slowly opening and then getting shut down again … Sales aren’t what they used to be, we need the people to be sitting in the seats you know? It’s been a real difficult time.”

North Bay police, the fire prevention department and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office are investigating the fire as suspicious.

“As soon as a fire is deemed suspicious or intentional, it becomes a Criminal Code matter and that becomes under the authority of the police and no longer the fire service,” said Whiteley.

Officials said the first two fires Wednesday morning were set intentionally. The first call came in around 4:30 a.m. and crews were dispatched to Burrows Country Store and Garden Centre, where shipping pallets had been lit on fire.

Approximately 30 minutes later, as crews were arriving back at the fire hall, they were called to another fire across the street at Gateway Tools, where debris was on fire next to a gas metre.

“We’ve had a bunch of small fires throughout the city,” said Whiteley. “A lot of people starting fires to keep warm and some other general small fires. I am concerned, though, that these two fires were intentionally set, put up beside buildings that are closed for the evening."

"We did have last month a couple of garage fires or shed fires that were intentionally set so there are some concerns right now,” he added.

Officials are unable to say at this point whether the three fires are connected.

“I’m not ready to go there yet,” said Whiteley. “I would say that the first two fires, there is a high probability just because of the proximity to each other. However, the third fire, it’s too early to say.”

Officials with the North Bay Police Service said in an email that it's “in the very early stages of this investigation” and there isn’t a lot of information that can be released at this time.

However, officers said there is no concern for public safety and they are asking anyone with any information or security camera video or dash cam video to contact police.