MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fire that investigators first blamed on Mother Nature turned out to be much more sinister.
Farmington police released surveillance video showing the fire at a fourplex on Pine Street in earlier this month.
The video shows a man intentionally set the flames that had residents scrambling out of the apartment’s windows.
A fire typically leaves behind obvious and extensive damage, even if the cause isn’t always immediately clear.
“We thought at first that it might have been storm-related,” Det. Shawn Scovill said.
Investigators quickly learned the flames that ripped through the two-story apartment building were no accident.
The discovery came after police watched two carefully-placed surveillance cameras.
“Once we observed the surveillance video and we saw a person in the area, that was kind of our first clue that something wasn’t right,” Scovill said.
The video from July 9 shows a white male, approximately 6-feet tall with a medium build, carrying a gas can behind the building around 9:15 p.m.
The camera captures him pushing out a window air conditioning unit and an explosion soon follows.
A second camera, in front of the building, shows that same blast and a man running away from the area.
“It’s invaluable,” Scovill said. “In arson crimes, most of the evidence is destroyed. We have no finger prints, we have no other evidence.”
The fire sent nine people running from the building. Four people jumped from windows; two women were hurt in the fall — one seriously.
“One of the apartment residents, she broke her back during the fall. She has a couple broken vertebras in her back,” Scovill said. “She’s not paralyzed but is recovering. It will take a while.”
Investigators are asking anyone with information to call the arson hotline at 1-800-723-2020, or Farmington Police at 651-280-6700.
“We don’t know if it’s a person who targeted someone in the building, or if it was just someone who likes fires and walked by,” Scovill said. “We really don’t know at this point.”