Ex-fire chief charged in forest fires

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — A former fire chief in northeastern Minnesota has been indicted on federal charges alleging he set fires in the Superior National Forest.

Former Babbitt Fire Chief Ryan Scharber also is accused of trying to set a fire at a resort while he was fire chief.

Scharber resigned as fire chief last December, right around the time city officials were told a federal investigation was underway, Babbitt City Attorney Mitch Brunfelt said.

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“It certainly came as a shock when officials became aware of the investigation, and it continues to be a shock today,” Brunfelt said.

Bernice Norregaard, who became mayor of the 1,400-resident town in January, called it “a sad day” for the Iron Range community.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Scharber set fires in the Superior National Forest on Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 11, 2011, and on April 29 and Sept. 10, 2012, all in Babbitt.

Scharber also is charged with attempted arson at Mattila’s Birch Lake Resort in Babbitt on Dec. 3, 2011. No details are given in the court documents.

According to Brunfelt, Scharber joined the Babbitt Fire Department in August 2005 and became fire chief in January 2008.

A home phone number for Scharber could not be found.