50-acre grass fire burns near Dalbo

Jeffrey Hage
Princeton Union Eagle

Will Jensen was having a pretty good morning on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

The weather was nice and the skies were sunny.

It seemed like the perfect day to burn some old magazines in a fire pit on his father’s property near Dalbo.

After burning the magazines, Jensen went inside and had a sandwich. He then settled down for an afternoon nap.

It wasn’t long before Jensen would learn that his afternoon wasn’t going to be as nice as his morning.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Jensen was awakened by a knock at his door. It was a passerby who stopped to let him know there was a raging grass fire in the hay fields that adjoin the property owned by his father at 41021 Tiger Street, Milaca.

A crew from Braham ride upon a grass rig on its way out to the epicenter of a 50-acre grass fire Wednesday, Feb. 15 northwest of Dalbo. Photo by Jeffrey Hage/Princeton Union Eagle

The home, nine miles southeast of Milaca, 12 miles northeast of Princeton and 15 miles northwest of Cambridge, was being threatened by fire.

Jensen and the passerby armed themselves with buckets, filled them with water from a nearby well, and worked diligently to wet the ground at the rear of the house to keep fire from encroaching upon the residence, Jensen said. An Airstream camper on the property was also spared from the fire.

In the meantime, a slight wind kicked up and carried the fire across the hay field.

“When we got there, the fire was burning across the field to the east and north,” said Dalbo Fire Chief Andy Swanson.

By the time firefighting crews from Dalbo, Princeton, Braham, Milaca and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were done fighting the blaze 2 1/2 hours later, about 50 acres had burned, Swanson estimates.

“Nature did its thing and kept it going until we caught up with it,” he said.

Grass fires are usually rare in February when hay fields such as Jensen’s are normally covered under a blanket of heavy snow. But a lack of snow this season has left dry fields susceptible to fire.

“Grass fires in February are rare,” Swanson said. “Especially one of that intensity.”

As a matter of fact, the fire was a big one for any season.

“In my 16 years as a firefighter I have never seen a (grass) fire that size,” he said.

Grass fire season doesn’t usually start for a couple of months. There’s one thing people can do to prevent fires both now and later in the year.

“The biggest thing,” Swanson said, “Don’t be burning. Plain and simple.”

“People don’t realize how dry it is,” he said.

That’s a lesson Will Jensen learned on February 15. He was just glad there was no serious damage or injuries as a result of the fire.

“It went as good as you could ask,” Jensen said of the fire. “Nobody was hurt and nothing substantial was lost.”