Sparks from locomotive believed to be cause of grass fire outside Regal, Minn.
REGAL -- A grass fire last week near Regal that burned nearly 300 acres of public and private land is believed to have been started by a Canadian Pacific Railway train.
Belgrade Fire Chief Jeremy Glieden said Tuesday that an investigation by the state Department of Natural Resources indicates the fire Thursday started from sparks from the train that ignited the tall, tinder-dry grass and brush along a section of the railroad bed in northern Kandiyohi County and southwestern Stearns County.
Glieden said the determination was based, in part, on train logs and eyewitness accounts.
Sparks from train tracks have been known to start fires, and given the extremely dry conditions, Glieden said it "doesn't take much at all" to get a grassfire going.
The Canadian Pacific Railway line runs alongside the Regal Meadows Wildlife Management Area and the dry riverbed of the North Fork of the Crow River, all of which provided plenty of fuel for the fire. Strong winds also fanned the fire.
It's estimated between 250 and 300 acres of land was burned, primarily south of state Highway 55 west of Regal.
Glieden said if fire crews had not arrived when they did, structures would have been burned on a farm site.
After ground crews had battled the blaze for more than two hours, two DNR airplanes arrived from northern Minnesota, including a fixed-wing water tanker that scooped water from the lake near the town of Lake Henry and dumped it on a hard-to-reach tree line.
"It was a great sight to see the DNR plane," Glieden said.
He said the plane dumped eight to 10 loads of water on the fire while the pilot in the other plane served as a spotter.
Crews worked until about 10 p.m. Thursday and then returned Friday to put out flare-ups.
Glieden said the Belgrade Fire Department, which was one of four departments that responded to the fire, will be sending its bill for labor to the railroad for reimbursement.