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Police, fire departments seek information on Dumpster fires

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Police and Fire departments are seeking information about who is responsible for five fires, which appear to have been deliberately set, in trash containers at the Fairview and Evergreen apartments along 24th Street Northwest.

According to a news release from the Willmar Area Crime Stoppers, the departments were called to fires at the buildings on these dates:

- At 3:40 a.m. Nov. 13;

- At 3:04 a.m. Nov. 20, to fires at both complexes at the same time;

- At 2:19 a.m. Nov. 29;

- At 2:55 a.m. and 6 a.m. Monday.

No injuries were reported, but a vehicle parked nearby was damaged by heat generated during one of the fires.

Officials stress that the fires have put firefighters at great risk and disrupted the sleep cycles of the department's on-call firefighters. In addition, the Fire Department experienced problems with equipment and firefighter endangerment in responding to Monday morning's fires in sub-zero temperatures and by traveling on icy roads, according to Fire Chief Marv Calvin.

"While we are more than willing to do this for real emergencies, when fires are deliberately set, they are inexcusable," Calvin said.

The damage has been minimal because the fires were contained in the trash containers, according to police investigator Kris Kolstad. However, each fire has cost Willmar taxpayers about $800 for the Fire Department's response. Kolstad also expressed concern about the risk of injury to the firefighters or nearby residents and the possibility that the person may escalate and set higher-risk targets on fire.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Minnesota Arson Hot Line at 1-800-723-2020 or the Willmar Area Crime Stoppers at 320-235-3640. Callers are not required to reveal their identity. Information that leads to an arrest and prosecution may entitle them to a cash reward.

Persons with information can also call Calvin at 320-235-1354 or Kolstad at the Police Department at 320-235-2244.