Minnesota Investigators Probe Three Arson Fires

St. Paul investigators are looking at three arsons one every weekend for the past three weeks on Seventh Street to see if they are connected.

The latest fire early Saturday at the warehouse of downtown business B&M Furniture caused more than $500,000 in damage. The weekend fire was started intentionally in boxes behind the store, and it quickly spread into the business.

Although aspects of the fire differ from those in the two previous fires along West Seventh Street outside of downtown, investigators aren't ruling out the possibility of a connection.

That all three were on Seventh Street and occurred in a similar time frame make them suspicious, said Sgt. Rob Weier of the St. Paul police arson unit.

The first fire was reported at 6:15 a.m. June 12 at a recently vacated warehouse and office building at 1086 W. Seventh St. Damage was estimated at about $50,000. An accelerant was used, Weier said.

The second fire the following weekend at 1:30 a.m. June 20 caused significant damage to a commercial and residential building at 987 W. Seventh St. The building has two first-floor businesses, a salon called Hair-I-Go and a framing shop that hadn't opened yet, and three second-floor apartments. Damage to the building was estimated at $150,000.

The fire started in the basement, which is shared by both businesses, and two gas cans were left behind, said salon owner Colleen Igo.

The salon, which sustained smoke damage, has been closed since the fire. Igo said she hopes to reopen soon.

The frame shop and art gallery was to open Thursday. Its owner had just hung the pictures on the wall, many that he had for a decade. They were all lost in the fire, said building owner Scott O'Malley.

A couple and two families lived in the three apartments above the businesses. Their smoke detectors went off, and they called the fire department. No one was injured and the tenants did not have to leave their homes, O'Malley said.

Investigators are fairly certain the two earlier fires are connected.

"There was evidence left at both scenes to indicate those fires are related," Weier said, adding that investigators were still working on a connection to the furniture warehouse fire.

Anyone with information about the fires should call the arson hotline at 800-723-2020 or Sgt. Rob Weier at 651-292-3737.