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Published October 01 2012

Blaze that destroyed Dilworth picnic shelter likely started by garbage can fire

DILWORTH – A fire in a garbage can is believed to have sparked a blaze that destroyed a picnic shelter early Monday in Cottonwood Park in Dilworth’s Little Italy neighborhood, Fire Chief Kurt Kennedy said.

Investigators initially believed an unattended bonfire in the shelter may have spread to the structure, but based on the lack of wood at the scene and witness statements, they determined the fire likely started in a garbage can on the east side of the shelter, Kennedy said.

People living across Bean Avenue from the park awoke to a crackling sound and reported the fire at 5:26 a.m., Kennedy said. By the time firefighters arrived, the shelter was engulfed in flames.

Kennedy said firefighters were delayed by a train blocking Main Street, which forced them to go to 34th Street and take a gravel road back to the fire. A language barrier with the caller also contributed to the delay, he said.

The fire destroyed the shelter’s octagon-shaped picnic area and two enclosed bathrooms and a storage room, Kennedy said, estimating the damage at $25,000 to $30,000.

Witnesses didn’t see anyone in the shelter before the fire, he said.

City Administrator Ken Parke said he had contacted the city’s insurance provider, and the future of the shelter was unclear. He said it was built around 1980, about the same time streets in the neighborhood were paved.

The city hasn’t experienced fires in the shelter in the past, he said.

“We haven’t had any problems before, so it’s quite surprising it happened and very disappointing, so hopefully we can find out what the cause of it was,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528