By KEVIN DUCHSCHERE – Minneapolis Star Tribune
Bystanders and firefighters worked furiously late Friday night to rescue residents of a St. Paul apartment building that was deliberately set on fire, officials said.
As a result of the quick action, no one was seriously injured in the blaze, which was reported just before 10 p.m. Friday. But St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said that police have launched an arson investigation.
No arrests have been made.
“When you set fire to an occupied building at 10 at night, you’re trying to kill somebody. To me, that is attempted murder,” Zaccard said. “People were asleep. People were relaxing.”
Because the fire is under investigation, Zaccard declined to comment on reports that the fire was set just outside the building or that a domestic dispute involving one of the residents may have been a factor.
The building didn’t sustain serious structural damage — Zaccard estimated a loss of about $50,000 — but smoke damage forced residents to leave. Some were taken by the Red Cross to a Roseville motel, while others stayed with relatives or friends.
Evidence of the fire was clear Saturday on the two-story, 11-unit building on Hamline Avenue just south of Larpenteur Avenue.
The brick front was smudged with smoke, the front door and windows were boarded up, and a sign with the large word “ARSON” was attached to the entry.
Two workers at the SuperAmerica station across Hamline may have been the first to notice the fire. Witnesses said they ran fire extinguishers across the street and directed them against flames surrounding the front door.
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