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Grounds staff Steve Smith begins repair on the fourth green, which a Caterpillar drove over to dig a trench to contain spreading flames Tuesday night. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Home lost near Blueberry Pines Golf Course

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News Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Jim Carlson’s home used to overlook the scenic #8 fairway at Blueberry Pines Golf Course near Menahga.

Today the view looks like a lunar landscape. The home is rubble.

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At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday Carlson and his wife watched smoke all around them and decided they were safe enough to go to dinner.

Travel was a problem, as smoke, barriers and personnel swarmed the area around the small burg.

He got a call in the restaurant around 9 p.m. It was a firefighter saying they were heading to his house.

“Can we take a fire truck up the fairway?” the firefighter asked.

“Do what you have to do,” said a shocked Carlson, who believed the flames would miss him by a half mile.

Moments later the Carlsons got a call that the home couldn’t be saved.

The north end of the course was so hot, it was simply too dangerous to send a fire truck into a contained space to try to save the home.

The firefighter apologized.

“I should have taken 10 minutes to pick up a few things,” Carlson said.

“I got some car titles and my wife grabbed a couple pictures.”

That was all they were able to save.

 “It was a beautiful whispering pines log cabin,” Carlson said, shaking his head. Meanwhile a motel will be home.

The 18-hole course was scorched on the north and west ends.

Holes # 5, 6, 7, and 8 all play a bit differently now. The cart paths are burned but the freshly watered fairways stopped the fire’s march – barely.

As fires raged all around, a battalion had to use a D-7 Caterpillar down the #4 fairway and across the green to dig a trench.

The Cat got mired in a swampy area and was pulled out to make an alternate path.

“If it had jumped to number 16, the next stop was Menahga,” said Jeff Yungbauer, who co-manages the course with Carlson.

“They saved Menahga,” Yungbauer said of the firefighters who converged on the course.

Wednesday, choppers were still dropping water on the course’s periphery and reloading from the water hazards.

By Thursday, some hot spots remained, but Yungbauer and his grounds crew were containing any further damage while beginning the repair work on #4, raising the deep tracks of the Cat, filling them with sand and seeding them.

“Ground under repair” took on a whole new meaning on the front nine.

Neither man was complaining.

“It would have been nice to get some childhood stuff, the wedding pictures,” Carlson said. “But the firefighters worked their butts off.”

Yungbauer marveled at the amount of property saved, not lost, including the town of Menahga.

The singed areas of the course didn’t stop play Thursday. The course was busy, the beverage cart was humming along and nobody complained about the smell of burnt trees.

The managers were on the phone with the course owner, the insurance company and others throughout the remainder of the week.

Golfers will want to stay out of the rough on the four damaged holes, or take a drop shot.

But overall, the destruction of one green seemed relatively minor, considering what could have been lost.

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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