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Several fires reported June 8-9 – more than one fueled by aspen cotton

Three fires occurred in the Heartland Lakes area on Wednesday and a fourth fire on Thursday.

A firefighter wets down a potential hot spot during a multi-agency response June 9, 2022 to a wildland fire off Evergreen Drive, near Nevis.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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Three fires occurred in the area on Wednesday and a fourth fire on Thursday.

The Nevis Fire Department and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded to a small brush fire on Thorpe Tower Road around noon Wednesday.

The Eastern Hubbard County Fire District (EHCFD), Nevis Fire Department and DNR were called out to a forest fire between Wolf Lake and Bladder Lake on 136th Street (five miles west of Hwy. 64 and 87 junction) on Wednesday.

According to DNR fire employee Heath Wilson, both fires were small and easily contained. He said the Thorpe Tower Road fire was about halfway between the north and south ends of the road. It burned .6 acres.

The Wolf Lake/Bladder Lake fire involved 0.68 acres in a wooded area. “It was just a few minutes and everybody was done and gone,” he said.


Wilson said the cotton coming off aspen that is all over the ground right now is very flammable. “It can catch on fire from a tossed out cigarette, a spark, anything,” he said. “That cotton is the primary carrier of fire right now, along with dead sticks and leaves. The fire jumps from one dead spot or pile of cotton to another. Any breeze will blow that cotten into the next pile. We just need some rain to dampen it down. Overall our fire season this spring has been much reduced from previous years due to the moisture from snow and rain this year.”

A shed fire was also reported in the Lake George area.

Evergreen Drive fire

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources dozer chews a path into the woods June 9, 2022 while firefighters from the DNR, Park Rapids, Nevis and Akeley battled a 25-acre wildland fire off Evergreen Drive, near Nevis.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Late Thursday afternoon, Nevis, Park Rapids and EHCFD fire departments, along with DNR, responded to a forest fire on Evergreen Drive, south of Sixth Crow Wing Lake.

Kyle Anderson, a timber program forester with the DNR, was the scene commander at the fire. According to Anderson, the fire burned 25 acres in the woods south of Evergreen Drive, including mature aspen timber and some younger aspens.

"The cause is still under investigation," he said, "but I would say the big reason we are seeing fire activity right now is the cotton from the aspen trees."

Meanwhile, the DNR hasn't been seeing the usual risk factors for wildland fire this year, with the area in "full green-up."

Anderson said there is an unusual amount of aspen cotton this year, burning readily and able to spread fire along the ground or while floating through the air, despite the well-watered, green foliage.

He speculated on the reason the aspens have gone into cotton overdrive this summer, noting that the cotton carries the trees' seeds. "There's probably a little correlation to the dry conditions we had last summer, and now we have good moisture," he said. "I think they're just making up for lost time."


Anderson credited Park Rapids, Nevis and Akeley firefighters with protecting three homes that were threatened by the fire. "They're top notch," he said.

Apparatus used to attack the fire included a DNR dozer to dig a firebreak, two J5 Bombardier tracked vehicles, a Humvee and an ATV to bring water supplied by fire department tenders to the fire. There were also two DNR grass rigs and one each from Park Rapids and Nevis on the scene.

There were no injuries in the fire, Anderson said. He cautioned people thinking about having campfires or doing lawn work to be aware of the aspen cotton issues. "It's not only strange and unusual," he said, "but it burns quickly and will catch you off guard."

Hubbard County Environmental Services Office (ESO) announced that it has $33,418 in new grant funding available to help low-income households upgrade failing septic systems.

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