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Blazes damage Minnesota farms

BY SUSAN KIM | RED LAKE, MN | May 4, 2001

"As each fire survivor knows, some losses can never be replaced."

—Joe Allbaugh

As west central Minnesota

staved off floodwaters, wildfires have plagued other

parts of the state. More than 170 small wildfires

ignited this week, damaging several homes, destroying

one farm, and killing several dairy cows.

One blaze in Hibbing, in northeastern Minnesota,

destroyed several garages and outbuildings after

seriously damaging several homes. Another fire near Red

Lake in north central Minnesota grew to 12,810 acres. In

the southwest corner of the state, a wind-driven blaze

burned most of a dairy farm in Beaver Creek. That blaze

destroyed six buildings and thousands of dollars of

equipment but the house was protected, according to

Hibbing Fire Chief Vince Puhek. Ten cows were killed but

more than 100 were saved.

Light rain kept further damage at bay but Minnesota

faces a hazardous wildfire season, said Perri Graham,

Church World Service disaster resource specialist. "A

huge hunk of Minnesota is still prairie," she said. "So

brush and grass fires are definitely a hazard."

More than 16,088 acres have burned since Jan. 1 in the


Minnesota's fire risk is even higher this year because

of a severe storm that swept through the northeastern

wilderness region on July 4 two years ago, said Graham.

"That storm damaged thousands of trees. But instead of

knocking them down, it snapped them mid-trunk. So

they've been drying out, not decaying."

This year, that forested area is prime tinder for a

potential wildfire.

Hundreds of other wildfires are burning in several

states, sparking what fire officials fear will be a

damaging wildfire season.

Last week a 150-acre brushfire in Florida temporarily

closed a highway and threatened 40 homes near Davenport,

a small town 37 miles south of Orlando. In Florida, some

2,252 fires have charred 178,138 acres since Jan. 1.

In New Jersey, a smoky brush and swamp fire in North

Bergen and Secaucus closed parts of several major

highways for several hours. The blaze also disrupted

passenger train service into New York City.

Wildfires are a concern for western states as well,

especially as New Mexico remembers the first-year

anniversary of the huge Cerro Grande fire that

devastated the Los Alamos area. Federal Emergency

Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh sent a message

to Los Alamos fire survivors on May 4, the anniversary


"Those whose lives were changed forever by the Cerro

Grande fire may be acknowledging the first anniversary

of the disaster in a variety of ways. As each fire

survivor knows, some losses can never be replaced," he

said. "And yet, those impacted by the fire have worked

very hard and made tremendous progress toward recovery."

More than 20,000 fled that May 2000 blaze and some 260

people lost their homes. A long-term interfaith recovery

committee is helping meet fire survivors' needs.

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