NORTH BRANCH, Minn. (WCCO) — Police in North Branch are looking for the person or persons responsible for a string of arson fires that began in May.
Dumpsters and trash cans were the initial targets, but now the crime is escalating to businesses. The latest target was the North Branch Veterinary Hospital.
Several animals were inside at the time of the fire, but crews were able to get them out safely.
"There were five dogs and one cat that they got out of there," Dr, Allen Kemplin said. "I couldn't believe someone would target a vet hospital."
Kemplin, who has cared for animals at the hospital since 1997, says the fire was set inside his recycling bins and quickly scorched the outside of the building.
The hotel across the lawn also had signs of someone using an accelerant to start a fire. Officials believe the culprits tried starting that building on fire first with no success. They moved about fifty feet away and got what they were looking for.
"Mostly roof damage a lot of smoke and water damage," Kemplin said.
North Branch police say they believe this arson fire is connected to several others in this town of 10,000.
"Since May, we're dealing with approximately five to 10 others. They seem to be started in dumpsters and the last couple have escalated to structures," said Sgt. Rick Sapp.
Now, a $2,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of whoever is setting the fires.
"We'd like to stop them before somebody gets killed," Sapp said.
Kemplin say he may be able to get back to the business of caring for animals in a few days. He hopes the reward is enough to get someone to come forward so this attack by fire in North Branch can come to an end.
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