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NOAA Special Weather Statement: Critical fire conditions

Fire destroys 'problem house' near downtown PR

The abandoned house on Third Street East has been the subject of numerous police calls, so it didn't surprise anyone that it burned extensively Friday night and may be caused by arson. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

An abandoned house that's been a perennial problem for Park Rapids law enforcement turned into a suspicious inferno Friday night.

A reward has been posted for tips leading to the suspected arson on Third Street East near downtown.

Park Rapids firefighters had to call for mutual aid from Menahga, said Fire Chief Donn Hoffman. Fifteen Park Rapids and 10 Menahga firefighters fought the blaze.

"It's been abandoned for three years," said Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers. "We've had to kick kids out of it numerous times."

The state fire marshal is visiting the scene to determine a cause.

The fire was reported around 6:30 p.m.

"When we have structure fires we're leaning toward doing that (calling for mutual aid) more than not," Hoffman said. "We were a little short-handed. If that house would have really taken off on us... But as it turned out we could have handled it just fine by ourselves."

The arson poster "doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to say that this is actually arson," Hoffman added.

"It's under investigation and right now that's one of the possibilities. There has been a lot of activity at that house."

The fire started in the west room of the main floor and that's where the investigation is centered.

"We had a pretty good audience," he said of the large crowd that gathered.

"Law enforcement was a lot of help and EMS was there," he said of ambulance personnel.

"Our guys did a hell of a job," Hoffman said.

Tips about those who may have been involved should be called to 1-800-723-2020.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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