Bemidji Man Arrested For Allegedly Setting Local Home On Fire
New Year’s Day turned into tragedy for one Bemidji family as they were forced to leave their home last night thanks to a fire.
“We were called at approximately 10:22 pm last night to a residence up in Northern Township off of Sunset Way. When deputies arrived, they found fire and smoke coming from the downstairs window of a split-entry home,” says Beltrami County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Ernie Beitel.
“We were able to relatively quickly extinguish that fire. The fire did extend to the attic prior to our arrival and it took us a little bit longer to extinguish the attic fire, but we were able to extinguish that relatively easily,” added Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer.
Three people were in the home at the time of the blaze including 20-year-old Damian Patrick Smith from Bemidji. Smith has been charged with arson in the first degree, attempted murder in the first degree and obstruction of legal process. Police say he was acting odd and erratic during the initial investigation. Smith was first taken to the Sanford Emergency Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. He was then booked into the Beltrami County Jail. He is reportedly unrelated to the other two people who were in the home.
“We’re not really quite sure what led him up to why he did that. We are investigating that to find out what his intentions were, but it’s our belief he intended to cause harm to the people in the home by setting it on fire. They were just helping him out for the evening. It was a cold night and they were helping him out,” says Beitel.
The two others who were in the home were able to make it out safely. Today, they are in the care of the Bemidji Red Cross.
Beitel says, “The Red Cross has stepped in and found them a place to stay, also helped them with clothing and some of the basic essentials to begin with. If there’s any folks in the area that want to help out they can contact the local Red Cross office.”
Smith is expected to be arraigned and formerly charged tomorrow. As for the home, firefighters say it can saved.
“The home had moderate damage. It certainly isn’t a total loss. There are parts of the home that did suffer some extensive damage but there are lots of parts of the home that were untouched by the fire,” says Hoefer.
The victim’s names have not yet been released pending a full investigation. Firefighters say it took them about an hour to completely extinguish the blaze.