Just over a week after the North Branch Veterinary Hospital in North Branch, Minn., was apparently set on fire, North Branch police arrested a suspect. Tips from the community led police to arrest Ryan Ortlepp, 21, of North Branch, on suspicion of second-degree arson related to the Nov. 4 fire.
The fire caused extensive damage to Al Kemplin’s practice. “Hopefully in a couple weeks we’ll get the roof back on,” Kemplin, DVM, says. “Middle of February or beginning of March we’ll be back in.” He hopes. Minnesota winters where six inches of snow could fall at any time could slow the process.
“We’re in a temporary place and it works well but you get in a routine--everything (now) takes more time. Finding stuff is sometimes challenging,” Kemplin says. The hospital was only down for a week before opening again at the temporary location within a half-mile from the original building. “Between the moving company and staff, we got up and going pretty quick,” he says.
The clients have been empathetic and he says his staff has been fantastic. But still, the ordeal has been a setback. “I guess it’s probably just the extra worries and concerns as far as the not knowing what will happen here in the next month to a year--loss of clients, loss of revenue,” Kemplin explains. “Before, we could board and groom.” They don’t have the facilities in the temporary location. “There will be a loss there,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll know more when we get into the building. We’ll know how it will effect us in the long run.”
Police believe Kemplin’s practice was one of several victims in a string of arson fires since May-- approximately 10 fires in the area were suspected to be arson. The fire, set at approximately 3:30 a.m., did not injury any patients or staff members, but fire department personnel rescued five dogs and a cat from the burning building. The suspect has since confessed to other area fires according to Kemplin.
If Ortlepp is charged with second-degree arson for the Nov. 4 fire, he could face up to 10 years in jail or a fine not to exceed $20,000. There is no word if anyone received the $2,500 reward for information in the case.
North Branch is a small town just north of Minneapolis. The veterinary hospital is the only one in the area. “Hopefully we don’t have too many issues with continuing to serve our clients like we did before,” Kemplin says.