SUDBURY -- North Bay police have confirmed the same 50-year-old man charged in connection to Friday morning's fire at Northgate Shopping Centre was also charged with arson in July.

The man is also accused of setting a fire in a garbage can in front of a vacant commercial building on Main Street East on July 22. That blaze caused minor damage.

Friday's fire is the second at the North Bay mall in three weeks after a "suspicious" fire was set inside the Walmart at the shopping centre on Nov. 20.

Jason Whiteley, North Bay's fire chief, said they are unsure if the two mall fires are connected. 

Whiteley said a North Bay police officer on regular patrol noticed the fire at the mall on Fisher Street and called it in.

The fire began at a kiosk at the south mall entrance inside the parking garage near Best Buy and had started to breach the building when firefighters arrived, Whitely said.

Ashley Wilson told CTV News she had just gotten off work at Pilot Diamond Tools around 3:30 a.m. and was taking a cab home when she and the driver passed the mall and noticed the flames.

She said they had been talking about how Walmart was reopening on Saturday and when they saw the fire, they drove closer to see if everything was okay.

Wilson said the whole parking garage was full of smoke and police were on scene waiting for the fire trucks to arrive.

Firefighters from all three local stations attended the scene and were able to get the fire under control very quickly. They were at the mall for several hours clearing smoke from the facility.

Whiteley said there were no injuries reported and the estimated damage is between $50,000 and $100,000.

A North Bay man was arrested at the scene and has been charged with arson and breaching a previous release order. He will remain in custody pending a bail hearing on Monday.

Police said there is an active criminal investigation into the cause of the blaze and the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office has been called in to help.

Mall officials told CTV News Friday morning the shopping centre plans to reopen Saturday morning and updates will be posted on Facebook.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Will continue to follow this developing story and provide updates as new information becomes available.