March 13, 2017
Imagine it: You’re sleeping peacefully in your bed, all warm and cozy, when a piercing sound fills the air. Your children run into the room in a panic, just as you realize it’s the smoke alarm. You have moments to get them and yourself to safety. Eventually you’re told you’ll have to find someplace else to live, and that this was a case of arson. Imagine how betrayed you’d feel at the thought of another person being cruel enough to want to destroy not only your building, but the people inside it.
That’s how dozens of Minnesotans have felt this year and last, when everything from apartments and churches to city halls and bars have gone up in flames at the hands of criminals. Just take a look at these recent notable arson cases:
March 2016: A fire caused $5 million in damage at the Church of St. Mary in Melrose.
April 2016: This blaze destroyed the iconic Tink Larson baseball field in Waseca.
July 2016: Fire destroyed the Bungalow Tap House in Emily over Fourth of July weekend.
August 2016: Fire forced people who lived in an apartment building in Waite Park to jump from their windows. Several were taken to the hospital.
September 2016: Because of an apartment fire in New Hope, residents from 15 to 20 units were temporarily displaced.
December 2016: Lakeland’s new city hall was still under construction when a fire destroyed it.
February 2017: Roughly 40 people were displaced because of an apartment fire in Paynesville. A suspect was arrested and charged.
March 2017: Fire consumed Salem WEST in Deerwood, a donation center established by the Salem Lutheran Church that serves as a storage site for donated clothing and household goods delivered to families in need.
When the State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) is called on to investigate an arson fire, they take pride in doing work that helps lead to an arrest and conviction and helping people and communities get answers. But they can’t do it alone.
That’s why the Minnesota Arson Hotline exists. You can submit a tip about these or any other fire in Minnesota by calling the hotline at 800-723-2020 or visiting www.mniaai.org. Rewards are being offered in most of these cases through the Minnesota Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators. The amount offered is typically up to $5,000 for each fire, but in some cases, city officials have decided to offer more.
Think back to the scenario above and you’ll understand why arson fires are so scary: Sure, they cause damage, but they also make people and communities feel vulnerable. They feel targeted. They don’t know who to trust or why someone would intentionally cause damage or do harm. Arson fires can be injurious and even fatal. That’s why the SFMD and fire departments all over Minnesota are working so hard to stop them. And your help will make their job that much easier. Even the smallest piece of information can help firefighters and families, so if you know anything about any of the fires above, call the Arson Hotline.