A fire that destroyed a cabin and burned through a few acres of forest near Upper Mission Lake Thursday, April 25, is believed to have originated outside the building.
Mission Fire Chief Eric Makowski-Budrow said the fire is under investigation, with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources taking the lead due to the suspected origins. Makowski-Budrow said firefighters were on scene until 2 a.m. Friday after responding about 9 p.m. Thursday. Responding were Mission, Nisswa and Crosslake firefighters, Minnesota DNR firefighters, Crow Wing County Sheriff's deputies, emergency medical technicians, a truck from the Central Lakes College Fire and EMS program and workers from Crow Wing Power.
They may have been on scene even longer without the assistance of a drone from the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, which Makowski-Budrow described as really handy. Officials used a thermal imaging camera on the drone to detect the location of both firefighters and fires.
"We had a number of spot fires in the woods that were quite a few yards away," he said. "The drone being up there found all the hot spots ... and it was able to direct firefighters exactly where to go."
Makowski-Budrow said while the relatively new drone's been used at structure fires in the past, this was the first time it was used as part of a wildland fire response.
"The neat thing about it, is it gives us quite a tactical view of where things were at," he said. "It was very well choreographed."
The fire, which also burned a pontoon and affected two other buildings, caused about $110,000 in damage, according to the Mission fire chief. The cabin on the 28000 block of Mission Cutoff was a seasonal residence for David and Trudi Beckel of Mesa, Ariz. The Beckels, who were not in Minnesota at the time, also owned the pontoon destroyed by the blaze.
Makowski-Budrow said it's the time of year when seasonal residents are returning and may be completing yard maintenance. He said while it's good to remove brush and other yard debris from around one's home-a chore that can reduce flammability-it's also important to check burning restrictions. Call the DNR or the local fire department to learn about any restrictions that may be in place.
Even though campfires are often still permitted in periods of restricted burning, Makowski-Budrow said it's important to ensure those recreational fires are out before leaving them unattended.
"When it's out, it should be cold to the touch. If it's not, then it's not completely out," he said.
According to the DNR, fire danger was high in Crow Wing, Cass, Aitkin and Wadena counties Friday, while it was very high in Todd, Morrison and Mille Lacs counties. The National Weather Service again issued a special weather statement Friday warning northeast Minnesota would approach near critical fire weather conditions. The forecast was updated and no longer predicted showers for Friday or Saturday, instead moving that chance of precipitation to Sunday. Winds were expected to gust as high as 15 mph Saturday and 25 mph Sunday.