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Area was in ‘red flag’ fire warning

DNR firefighters leave a field near 10th Crow Wing Lake Saturday afternoon after responding to a fire during a red flag warning. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

A number of fires, two motorcycle crashes, a dirt bike accident and other mayhem greeted emergency personnel this past weekend, signaling what could be a busy summer.

Two grass fires, one started by target shooting, kept fire departments on the run again as DNR, Akeley, Nevis and Park Rapids all responded.

“We’re in a red flag warning which means they’ll start easily,” said Akeley Fire Chief Lee Johnson. A red flag warning was declared for Saturday afternoon, when the DNR and other departments responded to the grass fires during high winds and tinder-dry conditions.

“Any burning or barbeques” can set a fire, Johnson added.

Some residents ignored burning bans; others were careless with lit fires outdoors.

Nevis responded to a fire near Tenth Crow Wing Lake and one by Heartland Drive, both grass fires fueled by stiff winds.

That was during the red flag warning.

“A lot of people with campfires” have caused concerns for fire officials, said Jermey Clemen, who will take over as Nevis fire chief this summer. He almost seemed relieved that the department answered one false alarm call.

“It’s getting close” to an all-out ban on outdoor burning, Clemen added. But he hopes the risk abates some as trees leaf out and other foliage emerges.

“I can bet you this won’t be the last one we go to today,” predicted Park Rapids Fire Chief Donn Hoffman about one grass fire.

The fire near Tenth Crow Wing was started when two men were shooting exploding targets. DNR Fire Program Forester Brad Witkin said technically, things like that are legal, even in a red flag warning, but people need to be responsible about their use.

The dry conditions and bare emergence of foliage means firefighters will be on high alert for about the next 10 days.

“We need to get the message out about the dry conditions, Witkin said. “Campfires, lawn mowers; people need to be safe with any type of ignition source” when conditions are this dry.

To date the Park Rapids area of DNR Forestry has responded to 69 fires, a high number, Witkin acknowledged.

“That’s a busy year.”

He said the potential for another Green Valley Fire, which burned 7,000 acres in Hubbard and Wadena counties two years ago, is present again this year until it rains more or greens up.

“It just takes the right spot and the right conditions” to start a huge fire again this year, he said.

He encouraged residents to haul leaves and brush to the transfer station if at all possible.

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Motorcycle crashes were a big concern for other emergency personnel Saturday afternoon.

A car-motorcycle collision near Mary Lake in Itasca State Park sent one person to a Fargo hospital, airlifted by helicopter.

A chopper was called to a second crash 10 minutes later on highway 87 near Hubbard, where a Harley Davidson hit a road obstruction and crashed.

The crashes happened within seven minutes of each other. One hour later a dirt bike crash was reported by CHI St. Joseph’s Health when someone needed emergency room treatment.

In the second motorcycle crash, on Highway 87 and County Road 20, Jacalyn Nelson, 55, Menahga, was taken by ground ambulance to St. Joseph’s after her Harley Road-Star hit a large chunk of wood that had fallen off a trailer in front of her on the highway.

According to the State Patrol report, she received non-life-threatening injuries. The choopper was not needed as she was transported to the hospital by ground ambulance.

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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