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A spectator at the Tofte Township fireworks display on Saturday caught video of exploding fireworks that sent organizers and viewers running. No one was injured. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

Fireworks go haywire in Tofte

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Tofte Township's fireworks display Saturday resulted in a mad scramble through woods and some leaps into Lake Superior to escape an accidental explosion.

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Halfway through the show, about 10 p.m., a tube ruptured and sent a 5-inch round into the remaining fireworks, said Richard Nelson, Tofte's fire chief.

That sparked an explosion that lasted 45 seconds to a minute, he said, but "it seemed like an hour and a half. We were ducking and covering. I dove into the lake," he said.

Eleven members of the Tofte Fire Department -- which trains for incidents like this, Nelson said -- reacted quickly and put out the small fires caused by the explosion, with help from the Schroeder Fire Department. The crew checked for injuries and helped with head counts. Leif Lunde of the Cook County Sheriff's Department said the situation was handled so quickly that the department didn't send help.

One firefighter cut her leg running through the woods, but there were no other injuries, Nelson said.

"People headed in every direction," he said. "We got the heck out of there."

Two videos of the explosion can be found on YouTube.com.

About 1,000 people were at the Fourth of July show near Bluefin Bay Resort, along the lake in a rocky area. Spectators were kept several hundred feet away from where the fireworks were lit. In 34 years of Tofte fireworks -- what Nelson said is one of the biggest displays on the North Shore -- this was the first time something went awry. Once safety was ensured, the department did attempt to salvage the night.

"We had about 40-some odd rounds left and we lit them off," he said. "The show must go on."

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