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ND man suspected of pouring gasoline on western MN bridge, lighting it on fire

The arson happened at Star Lake over Labor Day weekend.
County Highway 41 over Star Lake in Otter Tail County. 

County Highway 41 over Star Lake in Otter Tail County. 

A North Dakota man is suspected of pouring gasoline on a bridge and lighting it on fire in Otter Tail County over Labor Day weekend.

The Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office says it appears the gasoline was "deliberately" poured onto the Highway 41 bridge that crosses over Star Lake, east of Pelican Rapids, and then it was lit on fire around midnight Sunday. 

Several propane tanks were found near the bridge, a large portion of which is made of wood, and the person who called 911 around 12:08 a.m. Sunday reported they saw a gas can on the bridge and noticed someone leaving the area.

"We heard - I don't want to call it an explosion - but when you put too much gas on a fire and light it, and you get that 'WOOMPH' sound," Mike Linnertz, who lives about 150 yards away from the bridge, told Forum News Service.

Photos on social media show flames coming up from underneath the bridge. 

Dent firefighters responded to put out the fire and the State Fire Marshal's Office helped investigate the incident, the sheriff's office said. Witnesses told Forum News Service it took about three hours to put out the flames.

A 42-year-old man from Mapleton, North Dakota, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of arson, the sheriff's office said. The man owns a home near the bridge. 

It's unclear why the suspect set the bridge on fire, with the sheriff's office noting they expect to execute "several" search warrants. 

Meanwhile, the fire caused damage to the bridge structure, so it is closed until it can be inspected, the sheriff's office said.

Note: Details provided in this story are based on the police's latest version of events, and may be subject to change.

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