La Crosse police have arrested a man in connection with a fire that emptied a downtown apartment building Friday who they believe is responsible for at least two other cases of arson.

The 62-unit apartment building above the Market Square parking ramp was evacuated around 3:30 a.m. while firefighters extinguished a blaze in first-floor trash room.

Investigators later reviewed surveillance video and saw a man they recognized as 43-year-old Edward Foster enter the trash room and later urinate in the stairwell, according to police reports.

Foster initially told police he was in his 1112 Island St. apartment all night but when confronted with video evidence said he’d been drinking at the Twisted Moose from about 8:30 p.m. till 2:30 a.m. before wondering up to the building, where he said he went to look for things “thrown away by college kids.” He then admitted lighting a paper bag on fire in the dumpster.

“I kinda got myself into a little bit of trouble,” he told investigators. “I was being a drunk retard.”

Foster then confessed to setting fires last spring at 609 and 617 Fifth Avenue S. According to police reports, Foster said he didn’t intended to kill anyone and repeated “I don’t know” when asked why he had started the fires.

Foster was being held Tuesday on a $10,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to return to court Wednesday to face charges of arson.

Police investigated 11 suspicious fires between October 2016 and April within a 90-acre area just southeast of downtown La Crosse. All but one occurred between 3:30 and 6 a.m. There were no reported injuries, though occupants were sleeping.

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Reporter

Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

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