UPDATE: Fond du Lac officials ask for helpFire officials are asking for the public’s help to end a string of wildland arson fires that have occurred on and near the Fond du Lac Reservation.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
Fire officials are asking for the public’s help to end a string of wildland arson fires that have occurred on and near the Fond du Lac Reservation.
“We don’t want it to escalate to where we lose a house,” said tribal forester Steve Olson, part of a group of officials who spoke to the media at the Fond du Lac Tribal Center Thursday morning.
Since March 23 about three dozen arson fires have been started on tribal, state, county, private and Potlatch property west of Cloquet. All of the fires have started near roads, leading fire officials to believe that someone has seen something suspicious.
The fires have mostly been started between late afternoon and just after dusk.
“It looks like someone is stopping along the road, getting out of a car and starting a fire,” said Mark Wurdeman, DNR fire investigator. Officials are asking that anyone who has seen anything suspicious to call a national tip hotline at (800) 47-ARSON, or (800) 472-7766. A reward of up to $10,000 may be available for information leading to a conviction.
Early detection and prompt action by firefighters has kept most of the fires small, but the potential for a larger or destructive fire is there.
Wurdeman said that if some of the fires had been set a couple hundred feet in either direction from where they were, things could have been much worse.
“It won’t take much for one of these to be lit in a bad spot and to take out a house,” he said.
Olson said the largest fire so far burned six acres near a housing development. That fire happened in a stand of jack pine, an explosive fuel in dry conditions.
“It’s so dry it won’t take much for a house to burn or someone be injured,” Wurdeman said.
None of the fires have damaged any structures.