Brooklyn Park's fire chief said evidence of arson was collected. The fire displaced 35 to 40 residents.
Police arrested a man Wednesday after a fire the night before in a Brooklyn Park apartment building. It was the latest of three fires there.
The blaze was reported shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday in a third-floor laundry room at the Willows Apartments, an eight-building complex on 67th Avenue N., said Fire Chief Ken Prillaman.
No injuries were reported in this or the previous fires. However, 35 to 40 people were displaced because electricity and water were turned off in the Tuesday blaze. Several apartments were damaged by smoke and water.
Police arrested the 50-year-old suspect 12 hours later, near the scene. State records show that he lived at the apartment complex, but police were trying to confirm Wednesday that he still resided there at the time of the fire. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects before they are charged.
This is at least the third fire in the building's laundry rooms in the past five months and the second in this specific laundry room, Prillaman said.
"The previous fires, in and of themselves, make this one suspicious," the chief said. "It's very rare to have a fire occur in the same location. We were suspicious immediately."
Investigators were on the scene Wednesday trying to "connect the dots" among what Prillaman said were "nuisance fires" set using papers or an article of clothing. He said evidence of arson was collected at the scene Wednesday, but declined to be more specific.
The chief described the earlier fires as much smaller, burning themselves out before fire crews could arrive.
Residents on the first and second floors were able to go home Wednesday; smoke and water damage to the hall will keep third-floor residents out longer.
Glad to be safe
On Wednesday, resident Jorge Lopez was biding his time with his son, Abner Pineda, and other family members in a nearby apartment owned by the property company.
Pineda, 15, said he and Lopez were watching TV and thinking about going to bed when they heard a loud noise. When Pineda went to investigate, he caught a whiff of smoke.
He opened a door to the hall and saw that the laundry room fire door had been propped open with a garbage can. He could see flames licking from under a closet door.
The fire alarm sounded, and the two dressed for outdoors, grabbed important documents and blankets and were back out the door in a little more than a minute. Already, the hall was obscured by smoke. A neighbor called for help.
As of midday Wednesday, Lopez, Pineda and two uncles, Orlando Silva and Dennis Pineda, had yet to be back to the apartment that's been their home for a year and a half, but they felt sure that their belongings had been ruined by smoke. They had been told they could have to stay out for a week.
But they said they were glad to be safe.
"We say, thank you, God," said Orlando Silva.