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DNR says it accidentally caused wildfire that burned 4,500 acres


Minnesota DNR has determined that a wildfire that burned 4,500 acres of timber in Roseau County earlier this month was started by ... Minnesota DNR.

The state's Department of Natural Resources confirmed Friday that the blaze, which started on April 15 in Beltrami Island State Forest just north of the Hayes Lake State Park, was accidentally caused by DNR employees, the Pioneer Press reports.

The wildfire, dubbed the "Palsburg Fire" as it started near the Palsburg Forest Road, was traced back to a "slash pile" of debris left behind by logging crews, which the DNR burned last November.

MPR reports that coals buried deep in the roots of the slash pile appear to have continued to smolder over the winter months, and after a particularly dry start to spring, strong winds are believed to have fanned the coals into flame.

DNR forestry division director Forrest Boe told MPR that burning slash piles, which can be 10 to 15 feet high and 20 feet around, is standard DNR practice.

WDAZ reports that the DNR had checked the pile in December and did find some burning embers, but felt they didn't pose a problem because it was early winter.

"This shows us, that under current conditions, you can’t be too cautious," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the station. "The state is very dry and we need to take extraordinary precautions with fire."

The DNR said on Monday that so far this spring more than 800 fires have broken out across the state, burning 15,000 acres. In this particular fire, nobody was injured and no property was damaged.

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The DNR has is urging people to be careful with outdoor fires and requiring them to obtain a permit before burning brush because of unseasonably dry conditions. A fire on Monday in Polk County burned 750 acres of woods and land. Permits are available from local fire wardens or the DNR.