ST. PAUL, Minn. — Thirteen churches in eight Minnesota communities have been intentionally started on fire since 2012.
The Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) and local authorities are renewing a call for the public to come forward with information about the unsolved cases, including last year’s blaze that caused millions of dollars in damage at Melrose’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and a 2012 fire where a surveillance camera captured a suspect walking into an Isanti church in the middle of the night and attempting to light on fire part of the building under construction.
“The public’s help is critical in solving arsons,” State Fire Marshal Bruce West said. “Even the smallest detail could break a case wide open. We need people to come forward.”
Authorities do not believe any of these church fires are connected.
The public can call the Minnesota Arson Hotline at 800-723-2020 to submit information about any suspicious fire. Callers can remain anonymous and rewards up to $5,000 are available. Information can also be submitted online at www.mniaai.org
Notable unsolved arsons in places of worship since 2012
- Darling Historic Church on March 24, 2017, in Little Falls.
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church on March 11, 2016, in Melrose.
- Abandoned church on Aug. 22, 2016, in Deer Creek.
- Church, Inc., building on Feb. 15, 2016, in St. Paul.
- Bethany Lutheran Church on June 13, 2014, in Minneapolis.
- Open Arms Assembly of God on Sept. 6, 2014, in St. Paul.
- Community Covenant Church on July 11, 2013, in Minneapolis.
- Faith Baptist Church on Aug. 26, 2013, in St. Paul.
- St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on May 28, 2012, in Isanti.
Arson Awareness Week being recognized nationally
This week is National Arson Awareness Week and the theme is “Arson Prevention at Houses of Worship.” Houses of worship are particularly vulnerable to fire damage because they’re often unoccupied for long periods of time, and in many cases, in rural areas. Rural properties will generally sustain more severe damage because discovery and response time may be delayed. More information from the U.S. Fire Administration about Arson Awareness Week is available online.
Arson fires in places of worship since 2012 by year and location
- 2017: Church of Scientology in St. Paul and Darling Historic Church in Little Falls.
- 2016: Church, Inc., building in St. Paul, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Melrose and an abandoned church in Deer Creek.
- 2015: N/A
- 2014: The Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids, St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Open Arms Assembly of God Church in St. Paul and Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
- 2013: Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis and Faith Baptist Church in St. Paul.
- 2012: Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Morristown and St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Isanti.
About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state.