Reward: Authorities say the central MN church fire wasn't an accident


Authorities say someone may have intentionally set a historic central Minnesota church on fire in March.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the State Fire Marshal are even offering a $7,500 reward to catch the person or people responsible.

The incident happened March 11 around 4:45 p.m. A deacon running errands discovered the fire at the Church of St. Mary in Melrose, the St. Cloud Times reported.

Initially, the fire was believed to be an accident. A church maintenance worker told the paper that the boiler room, electrical panels and the kitchen are located below the area where the fire originated.

But the Star Tribune says clues led investigators to believe otherwise. Authorities have not said what those clues are.

Days after the fire, damages to the 1898 church were estimated at $1 million. But the ATF says the "extensive damage" to the building's west side and other losses are valued closer to $5 million.

Anyone with information is asked to call the ATF hotline at 888-283-3473 or the Minnesota Arson hotline at 800-723-2020.

Callers may remain anonymous.

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