ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Who is starting fires in Carlton County?

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigators and Fond du Lac tribal authorities are looking for someone who's lighting fires in rural Carlton County.

Arson investigator
Mark Wurdeman, wildfire investigator for the DNR, stands along Brevator Road Wednesday at a site of one of the many recent arson fires on the Fond du Lac Reservation. [Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com]

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigators and Fond du Lac tribal authorities are looking for someone who's lighting fires in rural Carlton County.

More than 30 fires have been started along roadways on and near the Fond du Lac Reservation in recent weeks, said Mark Wurdeman, wildfire investigator for the DNR. The string of arsons appear to have started on March 23.

"The M.O. is mostly the same and the pattern is pretty much the same," Wurdeman said. "They're in a cluster out in the same general area. It's happening two or three nights each week.''

The case underscores what's been a tough year for wildfire investigators with more fires than usual and more arson cases than usual.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

ADVERTISEMENT

The situation is considered serious because conditions for the past month have been extremely dry and ripe for small fires to quickly grow out of control.

"The fires have been pretty small so far,'' Wurdeman said. "We haven't lost a house yet and no one has been hurt, but that's more a matter of luck and the fast [firefighter] response.''

Almost all of the 2,000 wildfires across Minnesota this year have been caused by humans, and a good share of those have been intentionally set.

The DNR investigates arson using teams of conservation officers paired with forestry experts, both cross-trained in the science of fire and fire causes. Those 20 two-person arson teams have been extremely busy.

Lt. Chris Johnson, conservation officer who heads the DNR wildfire investigations, said the arson teams are called in by local forestry or fire supervisors if anyone is killed, if private property is lost or if local officials see something suspicious.

Johnson estimated 10 to 12 people already have been charged with lighting arson fires this year. Historically, nearly one-third of all Minnesota wildfires are caused by arson.

Anyone with information on the arson fires in the Fond du Lac area is asked to call (800) 472-7766.

What To Read Next
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.