50 evacuated during large grass fire in Anoka County

50 evacuated during large grass fire in Anoka County

1 June 2009

published by www.startribune.com

USA — On a warm, windy day at the tail end of one of the driest Minnesota Mays on record, a grass fire damaged one Anoka County home Sunday and forced the evacuation of about 50 houses.

The Department of Natural Resources and fire crews from four communities kept the blaze, which began in a grassy marsh, away from homes around the perimeter of the fire, according to Anoka County and DNR officials. Flames crept close enough to one to melt its vinyl siding.

Small aircraft and helicopters were used to dump water on the blaze, and just before 7 p.m., a light rain helped to tamp it down.

The fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of Bunker Lake Boulevard and 7th Avenue. At its broadest — about two-tenths of a square mile — the fire spanned east to west from Guarani Street to Round Lake Boulevard, and north to south from 147th Lane NW to Bunker Lake Boulevard. Billowing smoke could be seen from Hwy. 10.

“What usually happens is it burns really fast through the swamp, then it gets to yards and goes out with a bit of help,” said Dave Shuller, DNR public information officer.

Resident Tara Johnson wasn’t evacuated, but she helped a neighbor across the street flee a home that sat closer to the flames. “We had two minutes to get out,” she said. “We all helped and grabbed what we could, but we had to leave.”

Evacuees were allowed back in their homes in the early evening.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Residents reported seeing two teenagers, who appeared to have been smoking, running from the area where the fire started, but Anoka County sheriff’s officials later said they had cleared the teens of any wrongdoing.

Flames came within 100 feet of Jeff Olson’s house and charred trees behind his property.

“Now the firefighters are rescuing turtles,” Olson said, taking a moment to set one down in his yard. “It’s all wetlands out here.”

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