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Scanlon burning to join Cloquet Area Fire District

Firefighters from Scanlon and Carlton head back to their trucks after a small grass fire on Highway 45 on Monday.

Scanlon officials came to the table last week to engage in talks that could result in their volunteer fire department joining the recently created Cloquet Area Fire District.

"We are about as committed as we could be for one meeting," said Scanlon Mayor Jim Putnam last week.

The meeting involved members of the Cloquet Area Fire District Board, Scanlon and Cloquet city officials and Scanlon volunteer firefighters.

"We see things here that could be of immediate benefit even before we have a formal agreement," Putnam said.

The main goal for Scanlon is to have quicker response times with fire calls, which is difficult currently because the majority, if not all, of the volunteer firefighting force have day jobs outside of town.

"I see our number one benefit as response on daytime calls," Putnam said. "We don't have too many fires in general, but all it takes is one or two."

Ideally, Scanlon would like to work with the CAFD to put an automatic aid agreement in place immediately that would have CAFD firefighters respond to any fire calls in Scanlon. Right now, they have a mutual aid agreement in which CAFD will respond, but only after Scanlon firefighters request them to do so.

This could serve as the first step toward joining the CAFD, although that process will take months and perhaps a few years before the entities are fully and successfully merged.

Their tentative goal is to have a joint powers agreement in effect by January 2011 with member status by January 2012.

"It was a very productive meeting and we look forward to the continuing work in this process," CAFD Chief Jim Langenbrunner said afterward.

The CAFD is the result of Cloquet and Perch Lake Township consolidating after years of talks, which initially included departments from Thomson Township, Wrenshall, Scanlon, Carlton and the Fond du Lac Reservation, among others. Talks to consolidate area fire departments began in 2003 after Cloquet's local government aid was cut significantly. In 2005, Carlton County officials hired an outside consulting firm to evaluate fire and ambulance services in the area and consolidation was one of the major recommendations.

Today, a CAFD board made up of five people oversees operations of the 21 full-time and approximately 15 paid on-call members who now respond together to emergencies in 71 square miles throughout northeastern Carlton County and parts of southern St. Louis County. Perch Lake Township is west of Cloquet and covers much of the Big Lake area.

The district is now its own taxing authority through the state legislature and can set levies, similar to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District and Cloquet School District. If other towns and cities join the district, residents in those areas will also share the tax burden, which could mean lower taxes for Cloquet and Perch Lake in the long-term.

"We're trying to make sure everyone is paying for services they receive," Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said previously.

More information about the CAFD can be found at, which has been up and running since January.