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Two arrested in suspected arson at UMORE Park property

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news Hastings, 55033
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

A little good luck and a little of what Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows called good police work have led to two arrests in connection with a fire early Thursday morning on property owned by the University of Minnesota.

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Dakota County Sgt. Jim Gabriel was patrolling on the U of M property around 2 a.m. Thursday when he noticed a car with four occupants. He stopped the car to ask why they were in that remote area so early in the morning.

"He's given an answer like, 'We were just exploring,'" Bellows said.

Gabriel didn't find any reason to detain the individuals, so he let them go. But about 10 minutes later a report came in of a fire at a shed in the same area. Gabriel put out a request to locate the vehicle, and Rosemount police officer Josh Swenson stopped the car a short time later. All four individuals were brought to the Dakota County Sheriff's office, and Bellows said based on interviews two were arrested.

"We feel confident that we have individuals that were involved in this," Bellows said Friday.

Bellows credited Gabriel's decision to act on his suspicion and the ability of Rosemount police to find the vehicle again for making the arrests possible.

"I was really impressed by the work on this, how well law enforcement works together in this county," Bellows said. "Good police work starts out everything. Luck is part of police work."

One of the individuals arrested remained in custody Friday morning. Neither had been formally charged.

The Thursday morning fire destroyed a shed and all of its contents. Rosemount firefighters received the call just after 2 a.m. Firefighters from Farmington and Hastings also responded. Firefighters were on the scene for about five hours. Because the fire was in a remote location trucks had to haul water to the scene.

The pole barn was used primarily for storage of hay bales and a few older pieces of machinery. The hay inside caused the fire to burn long and hot for several hours, Rosemount fire chief Scott Aker said. Once the blaze was knocked down enough, a front end loader was brought in to spread out the smoldering hay. Rosemount firefighters left the pile to smolder and asked University staff to monitor the remains throughout the day and notify the fire department if there was a flare up, Aker said.

Assistant fire chief Jim Voelker said firefighters were called out to the barn again Thursday afternoon to deal with a flare-up.

A damage estimate has not been released. Voelker said officials were trying to track down who may have had property in the shed.

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