MINNEAPOLIS -- Police say two boys admitted setting the most destructive fire in city history, a $75 million blaze that consumed an entire downtown block Thanksgiving night.
A 13-year-old Minneapolis boy was charged Thursday in juvenile court with second-degree arson, the highest charge for a non-residential fire.
The boy's 12-year-old friend was arrested later Thursday and is expected to be charged Monday.
Police arrested the boys after receiving calls from their parents, said Ron Hagen, an arson investigator. Hagen said the boys confessed to breaking into the abandoned Donaldson's department store by crawling through a hole in a snow fence and breaking through a plywood door.
They admitted to starting the fire with cigarette lighters and blow torches left by demolition crews, Hagen said.
The fire consumed the abandoned store and gutted the top 12 floors of the 16-story Northwestern National Bank headquarters building.
It burned out of control for 12 hours, shooting sparks for blocks and threatening the neighboring 57-story IDS Center and 52-story Multifoods Tower. Firefighters said it could have spread throughout downtown if the night had been windy.
Damage was originally estimated at $30 million, mostly to the Northwestern National Bank building, but the estimate rose to more than $75 million when the costs of fire department overtime, disrupted business operations and lost retail sales were added.