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Wildfire sparked by Roman candle nearly forces evacuation of Father Hennepin State Park

When firefighters arrived on the scene, flames were shooting 50 feet into the air.

Roman candles are to blame for a "fast-spreading" wildfire along the shore of Lake Mille Lacs that threatened a nearby state park.

A park ranger at Father Hennepin State Park called in the blaze around 10:08 p.m. on Sunday, July 4, Isle Fire Department co-chief David Miller told Bring Me The News. A property owner about a quarter-mile from the park's boundary "said the kids were playing with a Roman candle," Miller continued, causing the fire on the edge of swamp grass along the lake.

The blaze was noted in the Minnesota DNR's weekly conservation officer reports, with Dan Starr saying the illegal fireworks sparked "a very fast-spreading swamp fire." Starr also credited the Isle Fire Department with "prevent[ing] the evacuation of Father Hennepin State Park."

When firefighters arrived at the scene, the flames were reaching heights of 50 feet, even scorching a utility pole, Miller said. The dry, windy conditions made an evacuation order possible if they couldn't contain the fire, with Miller noting the blaze "obviously would have headed toward the state park.” 

But the 18 firefighters who responded were, fortunately, able get the blaze under control relatively quickly. While the fire burned about an acre, no people were injured and there was no reported property damage aside from the scorched electrical pole.

"With the dry conditions, you really need to evaluate if it’s safe to shoot off any fireworks," Miller said.

Conservation officer Starr noted a citation was issued.

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This wasn't the only instance of careless fireworks usage in natural areas over the weekend. From the DNR's weekly conservation officer reports:

  • Mary Manning, in Hovland, wrote: "Despite extremely hot weather and the haze and smell of smoke from Canadian wildfires, some area campers still left unattended fires and lit illegal fireworks, risking the safety of themselves and others."
  • Robert Haberman helped DNR fire and local agencies with a wildlife likely caused by fireworks.
  • Thephong Le recorded a violation for fireworks in a state park
  • Greg Oldakowski assisted with the response to a "fireworks-induced fire"

Fireworks that fly into the air and/or explode are illegal in Minnesota. And even legal fireworks cannot be used on public property, such as in parks.

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