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Investigators say fire that destroyed St. Cloud bar was arson; owner arrested

The century-old building on the corner of St. Germain Street and Fifth Avenue went up in flames early on the morning of Feb. 17.

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ST. CLOUD -- Investigators said Saturday that the fire that destroyed the historic Press Bar and Parlor in St. Cloud earlier this month was intentionally set, and the owner has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

The century-old building on the corner of St. Germain Street and Fifth Avenue went up in flames early on the morning of Feb. 17.

The fire started in the basement, and it took about 60 firefighters several hours to put out the blaze. In the end, they demolished the building to prevent the fire from spreading. Damage from the fire was estimated at more than $1 million.

Local, state and federal investigators on Saturday "collectively made the determination ... classifying the fire that destroyed the Press Bar and Parlor as incendiary, as intentionally-set fire," the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a news release.

The owner of the bar, identified by the ATF as a St. Joseph, Minn., man, was arrested in connection with the fire and was being held in the Stearns County Jail as of Saturday afternoon. He has not yet been charged.

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A post on the Press Bar's Facebook page on Feb. 17 thanked "our St. Cloud Fire Department, St. Cloud Police Department and all other first responders who assisted with the devastating fire that broke out at The Press Bar early this morning. We are thankful that no one was in the building at the time of the fire. We’ve gained many great employees, friends and memories there over the years. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers."

Local and state officials investigating the fire requested federal help. The ATF's National Response Team responded to the scene on Feb. 21 -- the first time it had worked a case in Minnesota since 2004.

"Investigators will not release further information regarding the case due to the continuing investigation," the ATF said in Saturday's news release. "ATF is investigating this case alongside the St. Cloud Fire Dept., St. Cloud Police Dept., and Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office in coordination with the Stearns County Attorney."

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