MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A fire that destroyed a city block of businesses and historic buildings may have been intentionally set.

Thick smoke and flames filled shops and apartments along the 900 block of West Broadway in north Minneapolis last April. It took crews almost an entire day to put out the fire.

Investigators now say an ignitable fluid called terpene was found at the scene.

Analysis by the BCA found the liquid was at the bottom of the stairwell at 913 W. Broadway, where it’s believed the fire started.

Officials hope help from the public will shed light on how the fluid got there.

From 8:40 a.m. on April 15, until 7 a.m. the next day, crews battled fire and smoke on West Broadway Avenue.

“Our firefighters removed 21 victims out of the building that day using ladders or internal rescues,” Minneapolis Fire Chief Jon Fruetal said.

Those who worked and lived on the block barely escaped with their lives. They watched as the stone and brick buildings burned.

Investigators said they don’t believe the flammable fluid was in the stairwell when the building’s caretaker walked by, shortly before the fire.

“We have a reliable eyewitness who traveled down that stairwell 15 minutes before the fire was detected,” Minneapolis Police Department fire investigator Sgt. Sean McKenna said. “There was nothing amiss at that time.”

On Tuesday, many who lost everything that day stood behind investigators as they asked for the public’s help to gather more information.

Business owners are unsure what will happen next.

“The loss of the business is serious, but the fact that people came so close to losing their lives is something that really concerns us a lot,” said Digital City owner David Grady.

Business owners and residents say they need closure as to who would want to destroy some of the oldest buildings in North Minneapolis and the people and businesses inside.

Investigators say right now they have no leads.

They believe someone heard or saw something that could help solve this crime.

If you have any information, call the arson hotline at 800-723-2020.

View photos from the fire here.  

Reg Chapman

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