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Rain could help fight three-county blaze in Minn.

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PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- Weekend rains could bring relief to hundreds of weary firefighters battling a 7,100-acre blaze in three west-central Minnesota counties.

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The fire started Tuesday afternoon in Becker County and consumed at least 55 buildings, including 12 homes and 33 outbuildings. Winds of 45 mph drove the inferno from Becker County into Hubbard and Wadena counties.

By late Friday, the fire was 65 percent contained.

On Friday morning, a low-flying helicopter with an infrared camera was mapping the disaster area, detecting remaining hot spots that were entered into a GPS unit for further attention.

Sightseers have been a problem, and Hubbard County Emergency Management Director Brian Halbasch was asking the public to stay out of the burned area through the weekend.

Jeff Edmonds, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, addressed rumors about the fire’s cause, saying tales that it was started by a welder, an arsonist and other man-made causes are just not true.

“We’ve been investigating this from day one,” he said. “It is none of the above.”

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