All but one of the fires were in trash cans, mostly in women’s restrooms, said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gaede. The largest fire was a chair that had been set ablaze in a lounge area, which activated a sprinkler system.
The incident began when someone alerted St. Kate’s Public Safety to a fire in a basement bathroom in Derham Hall, an administrative building, which was followed by additional reports of fires, according to the university statement.
After a third fire was reported, “a pattern was noted, arson was suspected and university officials along with the St. Paul Police and Fire Departments were immediately alerted,” the statement said.
Officers responded to the campus at 11:40 a.m., along with firefighters, on a report of suspicious fires, according to police.
In addition to Derham Hall, the fires were found and quickly contained in Our Lady of Victory Chapel; Fontbonne and Mendel halls, which are classroom buildings; Butler Center, the fitness facility; St. Mary Hall, a dorm; and Coeur de Catherine, the student center, according to Sara Berhow, St. Kate’s spokeswoman. Two of the fires were set in Coeur de Catherine.
Campus public safety officers worked with the police and fire departments to review security footage and identified a suspect entering various buildings. At about 1:30 p.m., the suspect was found in a lounge in Crandall Hall, a dorm.
The woman, identified in a police report as Tnuza Jamal Hassan, was removed from campus at 2:35 p.m. and police arrested her on suspicion of first-degree arson.
Hassan, of Minneapolis, was a St. Kate’s student during the fall semester, but was not enrolled for January term or the spring semester, according to Berhow.
“While this was an unfortunate and stressful event, I am thankful we are all safe and for the wonderful and fast response of our Public Safety team along with the local police and fire departments,” said St. Kate’s President Becky Roloff. “Their thorough and quick actions helped ensure we were kept informed and the situation was resolved as quickly as possible.”
St. Kate’s is in session for students taking four-week January-term classes. The university notified their community on Wednesday about the incident via email, their emergency alert system and social media, with messages going out every 15 minutes until police gave the all-clear, Berhow said.