Memories Still Burning A Year Later
Monday marks the one year anniversary of a string of arson fires that destroyed nine cabins and the Finlayson-Giese Sportsman’s Club in northern Pine County. Most of the cabins are now rebuilt, but the scars of the intentionally set fires remain.
Bill Luedtke’s family lost four seasonal homes in the arson. The cabins were built by hand in the 1950’s and were filled with memories and history. The St. Paul resident compared the results of the arson to a “warzone.” Luedtke says it is painful to reminisce on the tragedy of April 13th, 2008.
Luedtke on the Arson:
Luedtke did not give an exact figure, but says the financial expense of the arson cost “a pretty tidy sum.” The Pine County Sheriff’s Office reported in May that the blazes caused over a million dollars in property damage.
No arrests have been made in the case. Pine County Chief Deputy Steve Ovick says the investigation is still ongoing. However, the case is now exclusively in the hands of the Pine County Sheriff’s Office. All state agencies that were working on the investigation have completed their reports, and are no longer actively involved.
Ovick says Pine County investigators are following leads. He says while none of the leads have resulted in enough evidence to press charges in the Big Pine Lake case, they have lead to significant arrests in other cases.
Luedtke says he has spoken with the Sheriff’s Office several times since the crimes, but admits, he is frustrated that there is no explanation for an act of cruelty that took so much from he and his family.
Minnesota State Fire Marshal, Jerry Rosendahl, says it is not uncommon for an arson investigation to take an extended amount of time. He calls the process “difficult” and says record checking is time consuming.
Hear Rosendahl discuss the arson investigation process:
Those on Big Pine Lake refuse to let a senseless act destroy an area that is known for its serenity, togetherness, and eventful summers. Big Pine Lake Association Chairman, Bob Palmer, said all but one cabin is rebuilt, most were finished as early as last fall. The Association is responsible for maintenance of the north and south lakes, and covers roughly 315 cabins in the area.
There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Two fires set in Kanabec County the same morning also remain under investigation. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the arson tip-line at 866-629-8342.