FARGO — The city of Fargo's fire and police departments are investigating at least seven fires in less than three months labeled as suspicious or intentionally set.
The latest occurred just after midnight on Wednesday, June 9 in an abandoned flood buyout house at 3680 River Drive S. that had no gas or electricity running to it and had been used by Red River Valley SWAT Team for training.
A little more than an hour before that, crews were dispatched to five Dumpster fires in three separate locations in south Fargo.
All of the overnight fires were labeled by investigators as suspicious.
In a statement, Fargo Police Sgt. Michael Bernier said it’s believed the dumpster fires are linked, but it is uncertain if the house fire is also related to them.
He added that none of the overnight fires are believed to be related to the May 11 arson at a strip mall at 3242 20th St. S. in Fargo.
That fire destroyed Bodyworks physical therapy and GiGi's Playhouse, an "achievement center" for people with Down syndrome, and caused an estimated $1.25 million in damage.
Fargo Fire officials announced June 8 that the strip mall fire was intentionally set.
Fire Chief Steve Dirksen said Wednesday, June 9 that the origin of the strip mall fire has been pinpointed to the exterior southeast corner.
The building is not a perfect rectangle, he said, but juts out to the east in that back corner. There, between Body Works and Gigi’s Playhouse, is where it started, he said.
Dirksen said "anything's possible" when it comes to potential links between the crimes.
“We could have seven random fires set by seven different people, or seven fires set by one person,” he said.
Dirksen said investigators look for commonalities at every fire scene. For example, if gasoline was poured into all five Dumpsters overnight, that would indicate a link.
Asked whether some of the fires could be the act of copycats, Dirksen said he’s not aware of that being the case.
Other recent fires labeled as intentional were two fires on May 10 at separate residences in Fargo.
The first happened just before 6 a.m. on May 10 at the Hamilton Apartments, 307 Seventh Ave. N. No one was injured, though flames damaged the front steps and door.
The second fire that day was reported just after 4 p.m. at 1420 Second Ave. S., and affected a secondary building behind the residence there.
Fires on April 11 and March 22 on the former Mid America Steel property in downtown Fargo were also intentionally set, according to fire and police investigators.
Two juveniles, a 15-year-old female and a 16-year-old male, were referred to juvenile court in connection with the April 11 fire.
In the case of the March 22 fire, which heavily damaged an abandoned two-story office building on the Mid America site, Riley James Keeping, 18, of Fargo, was charged with conspiracy to commit arson. Police said two juveniles were also identified as suspects and turned over to juvenile court officials.
Anyone with information or surveillance footage in the area of these arson reports is encouraged to call investigators at 701-241-1405. Tips may be submitted with the keyword FARGOPD to 847411.