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Law enforcement seeking info on deliberate fires near college

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar police and fire departments are seeking information about the person or persons who are responsible for setting deliberate fires in trash containers at Fairview and Evergreen Ridge apartment complexes near Ridgewater College.

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The two fires this week are very similar in nature to a series of fires in November and December 2008. Those fires happened on these dates: Thursday, November 13 at 3:40 a.m.; Thursday, November 20 at 3:04 a.m., fires at both complexes at the same time; Saturday, November 29 at 2:19 a.m.; Monday, December 15 at 2:55 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The new fires happened at 3:31 a.m. Monday and 3:21 a.m. Friday.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Minnesota Arson Hot Line at 1-800-723-2020 or Willmar Area Crime Stoppers at 235-3640. Callers to these lines are not required to reveal their identity, and crime information which leads to an arrest and prosecution may entitle them to a cash reward.

Alternatively, persons with information may directly contact Fire Chief Marv Calvin at 235-1354 or Police Investigator Kris Kolstad at 235-2244.

Kolstad commented that while damage has been minimal due to the fires being contained within the dumpsters, each fire call costs Willmar's taxpayers about $800 for the fire department's response.

In one of the November fires, a vehicle was damaged by heat from the fire in the nearby dumpster. Kolstad also expressed concerns with the potential for injuries to firefighters or area residents and the possibility the person may escalate and set fire to other, higher-risk targets. This makes it very important that anyone with knowledge about the fires call in that information right away.

Calvin talked about his concerns with the fires: "Responding to fires puts our firefighters at great risk. At night in an on-call department like ours, it also interrupts the firefighters' sleep cycles, interfering with their efficiency the next day and their family life. While we are more than willing to respond for real emergencies, when fires are deliberately set, they are inexcusable." There is also considerable risk from the fires spreading at this higher-risk time of year for wildfires.

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