Whoever started the fire at Covington Court Apartments early Monday meant harm. Before the blaze ignited about 2 a.m. near an exit, security cameras were stolen, fire extinguishers taken and smoke detectors disabled in the West St. Paul building.
Authorities have not officially ruled the cause as arson, but the troubling circumstances pointed to that conclusion Tuesday. Fire officials posted signs in the five-building complex offering a $2,500 reward to solve the case.
"While we are awaiting a final verdict, it certainly sounds like an arson situation," said Dennis Kummet, risk manager for Goldmark Property Management, which manages the apartments.
"It's clearly a situation where they intended to cause serious damage," Kummet said. "Whether it's strictly vandalism or they wanted to have a target, we can't really say. One or two fire extinguishers were taken. Hard-wired smoke alarms were ripped out and they got two security cameras and stole them as well."
Repair crews remained on the scene Tuesday afternoon, as residents returned to their homes. Kummet said "just about everybody is back in the building."
The fire knocked out heat and lights in the 38-unit building at 366 E. Marie Ave., causing the biggest hindrance. Actual fire damage "was confined to a small area," Kummet said.
Kummet said it is a mystery how the person or persons responsible got into the locked building.
"They could have gotten in when somebody else got in," he said, adding that no threat or troubling incident preceded the fire.