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Stuck Explorer torched outside EGF

A Ford Explorer stuck in mud for more than a month under the Mallory Bridge just east of East Grand Forks was set on fire late this afternoon, fire and police officials said.

The call came in about 5:30 p.m. as smoke from the fire rose high enough to be easily seen by traffic crossing the bridge over the Red Lake River a half-mile south of U.S. Highway 2, three miles east of East Grand Forks.

Firefighters from East Grand Forks responded and had the fire doused by about 6 p.m. Nobody was injured, and no suspects were named or were around when the fire was discovered. Gary Larson, assistant fire chief for East Grand Forks, said it appeared the fire had been set, perhaps in the interior, although the entire vehicle was so burned up, it was difficult to quickly determine the source of the fire.

The vehicle, which has North Dakota license plates, has been sitting in the remote site since April, stuck in mud on the incline down to the river. The owner had been contacted several times and was supposed to retrieve the vehicle Saturday, said East Grand Forks Police Officer Aeisso Schrage.

About a week ago, some teen-aged boys were caught spray-painting the SUV, he said. Since last week, a window had been broken on the vehicle and a door left open.

The site on the wooded banks of the river is a popular party place, partly because it's outside city police patrols and on the far end of Polk County Sheriff's Office patrols, Schrage said.