19-acre grass fire started by boys

Published 11:52 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

A 19-acre grass fire that threatened several homes on the south end of Albert Lea on Monday was started by three pre-teen boys who were playing with matches, according to fire officials.

Albert Lea Fire Capt. Mark Light said the boys admitted to starting the fire.

It has not been determined whether any action will be taken; however, police and fire investigators have talked with both the juveniles and their parents.

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Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels, who is also the interim fire chief, said someone had reported seeing the boys playing in the area near where the fire had started.

The blaze, in the field south of Oregon and West Seventh streets, east of Lincoln Avenue and north of West Ninth Street, grew with wind gusts of up to 23 mph. Freeborn County was in the middle of a warning for high fire risk.

Firefighters from the Albert Lea, Albert Lea Township, Clarks Grove, Alden, Conger, Glenville and Manchester departments battled the blaze.

Light said it was a difficult fire to fight.

“All of a sudden the wind was behind us, and just that quick it was turned around and came back at us,” he said. “One minute you’re standing in clear air, and the next you can’t see.

“It’s absolutely fortunate that nothing was damaged and nobody was hurt trying to get this thing out. There’s just a ton of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t.”

The fire had residents who lived nearby nervous, prompting some to hose down their backyard lawns as a precaution in case the fire spread.

The blaze ventured as close as 100 feet from at least one home.

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