DNR, Fond du Lac looking for wildfire arsonistMinnesota Department of Natural Resources investigators and Fond du Lac tribal authorities are looking for someone who’s lighting fires in rural Carlton County.
By: John Myers email@example.com, Pine Journal
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigators and Fond du Lac tribal authorities are looking for someone who’s lighting fires in rural Carlton County.
Nearly 36 fires have been started along roadways on and near the Fond du Lac Reservation in recent weeks, said Mark Wurdeman, wildfire investigator for the DNR. The string of arson fires appears to have started on March 23.
“The M.O. is mostly the same and the pattern is pretty much the same,” Wurdeman said. “They’re in a cluster out in the same general area. It’s happening two or three nights each week.”
The case underscores what’s been a tough year for wildfire investigators with more fires than usual and more arson cases than usual.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.
The situation is considered serious because conditions for the past month have been extremely dry and ripe for small fires to quickly grow out of control. So far, crews have responded to the arson fires and extinguished them before they grew.
“The fires have been pretty small so far,” Wurdeman said. “We haven’t lost a house yet and no one has been hurt, but that’s more a matter of luck and the fast [firefighter] response.”
Nearly all of the 2,000 wildfires across Minnesota this year have been caused by humans, and a good share of those have been intentionally set.
The DNR investigates arson using teams of conservation officers paired with forestry experts, both cross-trained in the science of fire and fire causes. Those 20 two-person arson teams have been extremely busy.
Lt. Chris Johnson, conservation officer who heads the DNR wildfire investigations, said the arson teams are called in by local forestry or fire supervisors if anyone is killed, if private property is lost or if local officials see something suspicious.
Johnson estimated 10 to 12 people already have been charged with lighting arson fires this year. Historically, nearly one-third of all Minnesota wildfires are caused by arson.
Anyone with information on the arson fires in the Fond du Lac area is asked to call (800) 472-7766.