Police have issued an arrest warrant for a Cambridge woman accused of setting her house on fire and fleeing south of the border.

The warrant relates to last week’s fire on Westcliff Way, which caused an estimated $80,000 worth of damage.

Although no people or animals were physically hurt in the fire, the emotional toll may be even more significant than the financial one – especially because the woman’s husband and daughter say they never would have expected Michelle Smits to do anything like that.

Husband Bill Smits calls it the “hardest thing I could ever imagine.”

In an interview with CTV News, he said that he was on his way home from a trip to visit his daughter in British Columbia when he got the call that his house was on fire.

From that moment on, the shocks kept coming.

First Michelle disappeared, taking the family vehicle with her.

Then Bill learned that the family’s finances were in what he calls a “horrible” state, with insurance policies cancelled over nonpayment issues and a mortgage that hadn’t been paid in nearly a year.

“She paid all the bills. I thought I was being taken care of,” Bill said.

“Every bit of savings is gone.”

The two had been together for 29 years – the last 14 of them on Westcliff, where Bill built the home himself.

Bill says their relationship was strong, and he has no idea what could have prompted his wife to start a fire and vanish.

Both he and daughter Chantelle say they want Michelle to resurface, turn herself in and get help.

“It’s hard to believe that she would do something like this,” Chantelle said.

“I don’t know what to feel about her right now, and I’m scared.”

Police say they have not been able to determine Michelle Smits’ whereabouts since the fire, but believe she may have left the country.

“Investigators have put out a warrant for her arrest. We believe that she’s moved to the United States,” said Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Mike Haffner, adding that charges other than arson may also be laid against her at some point.

None of the allegations against Michelle Smits have been tested in court.