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Sheriff’s office investigating pontoon blaze ignited by fireworks

Sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Thesing said the fire started when a mortar shell failed to launch from the tube and exploded, igniting other fireworks on the boat.

Pontoon on fire in a lake
Brainerd firefighters spray water on a burning pontoon close to shore Sunday, July 3, 2022, on White Sand Lake in Baxter. The fire was caused by someone on the boat setting off illegal fireworks and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office is investigating.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — An illegal firework that failed to properly launch was responsible for the fire engulfing a pontoon Sunday night, July 3, in the waters of White Sand Lake in Baxter.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office reported a 47-year-old man and an unidentified person were on the boat at the time of the fire, which prompted response from the Brainerd Fire Department to extinguish the floating blaze.

Firefighters responded to the pontoon fire, reported at 10:11 p.m. along the southern lakeshore next to the 5400 block of Fairview Road North. The 911 caller reported the burning boat was floating about 50 feet from shore and fireworks were still exploding.

The 911 caller reported the burning boat was floating about 50 feet from shore along the southern edge of White Sand Lake at Fairview Road and fireworks were still exploding.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Thesing said the fire started when a mortar shell failed to launch from the tube and exploded, igniting other fireworks on the boat. The people on the boat made it safely to shore, after which said the unidentified person fled the scene and the 47-year-old man was “less than cooperative,” according to Thesing.

The 47-year-old man was transported to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd by a private vehicle and was treated for a laceration to his ankle.


The sheriff’s office is currently investigating the incident for possible charges.

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There were 18 firefighters on the scene for about an hour. As firefighters used the spray of a fire hose to extinguish the flames, the pressure of the water pushed the boat farther from shore. Authorities worked to launch an inflatable craft to assist in the fire response and pull the pontoon to shore.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office cleared the scene at 12:10 a.m. Monday. Assisting at the scene was the Baxter Police Department.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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