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Patrick Springer, Published July 22 2012

Crews extinguish grass fire west of Ulen; no injuries reported

ULEN, Minn. – Gordon Fevig burned some trash in his yard Sunday afternoon and went back inside to escape the sweltering heat.

No more than 15 minutes later, he heard a knock at his door. His neighbor had come with an urgent message.

“Do you realize there’s a fire?”

Fevig and his wife went outside, and to their dismay, saw that flames had blackened his yard, coming close to his house and burning one corner of his barn.

Fortunately, the wind was fanning the flames to the north and east, away from his house – but in the direction of a neighbor’s storage building.

“We were able to save the buildings,” Karen Fevig said. She and her husband grabbed hoses connected to the house and barn, and doused the flames.

Their neighbors, who had sped over in a four-wheeler to sound the alarm, joined the fight, using rugs and an old jacket to beat the flames down.

But the fire spread quickly through the tinder-dry prairie, blackening much of a neighbor’s land set aside for conservation reserve and other areas of mixing grass and woods.

The wind, blowing from the west and southwest, was 9 or 10 mph around 4 p.m. when the fire started, but gusting up to 17 mph.

Firefighters from Ulen were joined by a host of neighboring departments, including those from Ada, Borup, Glyndon, Hawley and Hitterdal.

The fire crews quickly doused the fire, which did not cause widespread damage to structures. No injuries were reported.

Bill Bergquist, the Clay County sheriff, said one structure burned, but firefighters were able to prevent the fire from jumping a road.

“It appears right now it was in one section,” the sheriff said.

Several ambulances were standing by, largely in case firefighters succumbed to heat exhaustion from the broiling heat, in the mid-90s.

The drought and high temperatures have combined to cause a rash of grass fires in recent days. Fargo-Moorhead, about 35 miles southeast of the fire, is more than 3 inches below normal for precipitation since June 1, and almost 5 inches below normal since Jan. 1.

Gordon Fevig estimates that the fire burned parts of more than 100 acres. No official estimate was available Sunday evening.

The Fevigs lost an old riding mower, and a corner of their barn burned, but otherwise their property escaped damage. They were thankful the fire wasn’t worse.

Gordon, standing 20 yards from the trash heap that burned out of control, looked around as firefighters doused hot spots and the smell of smoke hung in the air.

“That’s what one match can do,” he said.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522