Firefighters battle multiple blazes in Worthington, rural Fulda
“Don’t have a fire right now. Do not burn anything right now.”
WORTHINGTON — As dry conditions have persisted in much of Minnesota, Nobles County will remain under a burn ban through Monday, with surrounding counties still requiring permits in order to burn.
“We have a serious need of rain,” said Worthington Fire Chief Pat Shorter Friday. “Don’t have a fire right now. Do not burn anything right now.”
Several local fire departments have battled blazes this week, including a fire that destroyed two buildings and damaged another in rural Bigelow Wednesday.
3:23 p.m. Wednesday, rural Fulda
A property owner had a proper permit to burn items in a pit on Sunday, and checked to make sure it was out on Monday. There was no sign of anything burning, but on Wednesday, high winds and a few embers started the grass nearby ablaze. Then the fire jumped the road, setting harvested corn stalks burning, before it made its way to a grove.
“We ended up calling for mutual aid from Brewster, and they showed up with two trucks, a pickup and a floating pump, so we were able to get water out of the lake,” said Dave Baumhoefner, Fulda Fire Chief, thanking the Brewster Fire Department and Nobles County Sheriff’s Office for their work at the scene.
Fulda brought five vehicles and about 16 firefighters to the scene, and Brewster nearly a dozen firefighters.
“Everything is extremely dry. It didn’t take much for an ember to ignite downwind,” Baumhoefner said.
About seven acres burned, and the firefighters put the flames out and returned to the fire hall by 8:42 p.m.
1:01 a.m. Thursday, Oliver Avenue, rural Fulda
The Fulda Fire Department was called out again just a few hours later to a farm residence, with an initial report of a grain bin and grove on fire.
As it turned out, the grain bin wasn’t on fire, but the machine shed next to it was — and it was a total loss by the time firefighters arrived, Baumhoefner said. The farm implements, tractor, pickup, lawnmowers and tools in the shed were lost along with the building.
Firefighters still had to put out the fire in the grove, with its dead branches, grass and dried corn leaves both providing fuel for the fire and serving as obstacles to those battling it. Less than half an acre was consumed before the fire was put out..
A dozen firefighters were on the scene, along with five trucks, and they were back at the fire hall by 3:35 a.m.
The cause of the fire was undetermined, but most likely began with a vehicle or battery, Baumhoefner said.
“If people do have a legal burn, whether it’s a campfire or a burn pit, verify it. Go down into it, stir it up, make sure it is out,” he advised. “Take that extra step and be a little bit more vigilant to make sure that legal fire you had is actually out.”
He also advised people to ensure all their machinery is in good shape, and noted people working in the fields should have tillage equipment handy to starve a small fire of fuel.
6:44 p.m. Wednesday, 13th Street and Third Avenue, Worthington
The Worthington Fire Department responded to a report of illegal burning in Worthington on Wednesday.
“Somebody, or some group of somebodies, piled up a huge pile of leaves probably about 15 to 20 foot square between a house and a garage, and apparently, lit it on fire in that wind,” Shorter said. “The leaves were laid right up against the garage on the west side.”
Somehow, the fire didn’t make it through the pole barn-style siding into the garage.
Shorter pointed out that burning in town isn’t allowed anyway, apart from recreational fires, but even then, the materials that can be burned are limited to lumber, cut wood and the like.
“It’s not meant for burning rubbish and leaves and interior furniture and house doors,” he said, listing just a few of the items people have tried to dispose of in town.
1 p.m. Thursday, McMillan Street, Worthington
A fire severely damaged a kitchen and left smoke damage throughout a McMillan Street home Thursday, temporarily displacing a man, a woman and an infant.
"It is repairable," said Shorter, who also noted that the family will not be able to occupy the home again until those repairs are made.
The American Red Cross was contacted and in turn contacted the residents, offering vouchers so the family will have a place to stay.
Twenty firefighters and three trucks responded to the call. Despite the smoky conditions inside the building, a firefighter was able to keep the fire down using an extinguisher before a truck arrived with water, putting the fire out completely.
"Do not burn," Shorter advised, warning "it's dry, it's warm and there's plenty of wind."