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Fire marshal rules arson in Danish Mill blaze...

A fire that occurred inside Kenmare’s Danish Mill on Sunday, Jan. 13, was deliberately lit, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

2/12/19 (Tue)

A fire that occurred inside Kenmare’s Danish Mill on Sunday, Jan. 13, was deliberately lit, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Kenmare Police Chief Allisha Britton, who has regularly been in direct contact with Fire Marshal Kimberly Ersland, told The Kenmare News, Ersland ruled the fire was the result of arson.

In North Dakota arson is considered a Class B felony and if found guilty, those responsible could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There had been numerous rumors circulating around the community about what and/or who might have caused the fire.

As far as Britton is concerned, as of Feb. 5, an electrical fire has been officially ruled out, however, there was no identifiable, ignitable liquid residue left at the scene.

Ersland was in Kenmare the morning of Jan. 13, analyzing the evidence. She took numerous samples with her back to the lab for analysis.

Nothing recognizable indicates the fire was hot enough to burn every trace of ignition or the catalyst was something like toluene, xylene butane, alcohol or high-flash naphtha.

“We’ve gone around the square and looked at everyone’s video,” Britton said. “There just aren’t any clues on the surveillance footage.”

Britton said her investigation into who was responsible will continue. She questioned who would want to attempt to destroy such an historical landmark. She intends to find out.

The fire was first noticed about 6:15 on that Sunday morning and just 15 minutes prior to it being reported, a witness saw someone running out of the mill and toward the south end of the square.

According to Britton, there haven’t been any tips from the public as of yet, but she is hoping some begin to trickle in.

She believes there had to be more people in the downtown area that Sunday morning and if anyone saw something other than what the two witnesses already identified, they are urged to call the police and tell them what they may have seen. Even if it’s something you believe is trivial, it very well could be a link to something else that could lead to the fire bug.

The Kenmare Police Department may be contacted at 385-4411.

Reward may be offered

Kenmare Park Board President Arlen Gartner said a reward is in the works with the amount still undetermined. He hopes that will help some tips come forward.

“I’m going to talk to the board and see what we should start with,” he said. “You never know. Somebody may have seen something and hopefully this will bring us some tips.”

Gartner added at least a couple of people have come forward, telling him they want to add to the reward.

Meanwhile, donations continue to come in to repair the fire damage. As of Monday, $1,335 has been donated to repair the mill.

If anyone would like to make a donation to restore the mill, please send contributions to Danish Mill Repair Project, PO Box 816, Kenmare, ND 58746.

When news of the fire reached Elk Horn, Iowa, the manager of the only working Danish Mill in the United States, was deeply saddened.

“Your windmill served its purpose to grind for livestock and for human food,” said Lisa Riggs, manager of Elk Horn’s Danish Mill. “I hope you are able to get yours restored. It’s just heartbreaking when something like that happens.”

Britton has been looking into additional downtown surveillance cameras, including some that would monitor the Downtown Park Square so something like this doesn’t happen again.

She believes surveillance cameras can be just as much a deterrent as they are proof that someone committed a crime.

The mill has been located in the Downtown Park Square since 1961 and this is the first time it’s been vandalized. It was built by Danish immigrant Christian Jensen north of Kenmare in 1902, was moved into town in 1958 and relocated to the Downtown Square in 1961.

“Every criminal will eventually make a mistake,” Riggs said. “I hope your police department catches whoever is responsible.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!