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2nd March 2015

Bemidji Fire Department responded to a residential garage fire Saturday night at the 9000 block of Foxcroft Road NW. The fire was reported at 7:29 PM. Bemidji Firefighters arrived on scene to find heavy fire coming from the attached garage. Bemidji and Solway Firefighters were able to quickly contain and extinguish the fire, preventing any fire spread into the home. Twenty six firefighters used three fire engines, two squads and four water tenders on the scene. One minor injury to a firefighter was reported. The fire department was on scene approximately 3 hours. The fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the structure. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Bemidji Fire Department; however it appears accidental in nature. The fire department was assisted on scene by Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Solway Fire Department, Bemidji Ambulance service and Beltrami Electric Coop.

27th February 2015

This past Saturday, the Bemidji Fire Department hosted an Ice Rescue Technician course.  Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer says the course was funded by a Regional Grant from the State of Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education.  White Bear Academy taught the course which had sixteen students from Solway and Bemidji Fire Departments. The course included classroom time followed by on ice training on Lake Bemidji. Hoefer said that during the classroom portion, students learned about scene size -up, the cold water environment, the effects and stages of hypothermia, and different types of ice rescue equipment and rescue techniques. During the on ice portion the students practiced these new techniques and became comfortable performing a rescue in a cold water situation. With the completion of this course Bemidji Fire added several new members to their cold water rescue team and assisted Solway Fire with developing a team of their own.

21st February 2015

Saturday, February 28th, Lake Bemidji State Park will host a candlelight event for skies and snowshoers.  The event runs from 6 to 9pm.  Organizers say the trail is 1.5 miles and suitable for beginner-level skiers or snowshoers of all ages.  Participants can also warm up around a crackling fire and roast marshmallows or enjoy a hot beverage.  You can call 218-308-2300 for information about snowshoe rental or checkout.  For more information on the event, you can also go online to the Lake Bemidji State Park page at www.mndrn.gov.

6th February 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is undertaking a closer examination of a trend in northwestern Minnesota where pine forests are being cut, cleared and converted to potatoes and other rotational croplands.

Because the pine-to-potatoes land conversion could potentially pose a threat to water supplies and impact fish and wildlife for years to come, the DNR will prepare a document known as a discretionary environmental assessment worksheet (EAW).

A North Dakota-based potato processor, R.D. Offutt, has been purchasing and clearing the forest land in four counties: Becker, Cass, Hubbard and Wadena. The DNR estimates that the processor has already purchased about 12,000 acres of pine forests. Some of this land has already been cleared, and the remainder is slated for clearing and conversion to irrigated croplands. The DNR estimates that another 15,000 acres of pine forests have the potential to be sold and converted to crops.

Altogether, the forest lands that have been cleared, or are at risk of being cleared, cover a total area of about 42 square miles – an area approximately covered by the cities of Bemidji, Brainerd and Detroit Lakes combined. Experts say the current rate of forest loss in this region has not been seen in recent memory.

The region’s sandy, permeable soil contributes to the potential impacts from this land conversion. These potential impacts include the risk of crop fertilizers contaminating local water supplies, groundwater overuse, and impacts to fish and wildlife. R.D. Offutt is asking the DNR for permits to construct groundwater wells to irrigate new and future croplands.

Before deciding whether to grant those well permit requests, the DNR will prepare the discretionary EAW in order to fully understand the potential environmental effects of any appropriation decisions and associated land clearing activities.

“It’s important that the DNR carefully consider the implications that this rapid forest land clearing and conversion will have on water quality, water supply, and related resources in this region and beyond,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “People rely on these water sources, and we want to take a hard look at any potential impacts.”

The EAW could take up to a year to complete. The potato processor has been informed of the environmental review process, which puts on hold any further land clearing and decisions regarding well permit applications.


30th January 2015

Bemidji State University President Richard A. Hanson challenged nearly 500 students at a campus-wide gathering Thursday to confront the dangers of alcohol abuse, and they shared their ideas for improving safety and promoting responsible behavior.  Following a Bemidji State student’s alcohol-related death in December and a second serious incident this month, Hanson invited students, faculty and staff to attend the unprecedented “Campus Summit on Alcohol and Student Safety,” yesterday Beaux Arts Ballroom.  Hanson told the crowd that he wanted to make this issue an issue and he wanted people to come together and ask what’s going on, what’s happening, why its happening and what can we do to stop it.  Hanson stressed the dangers of binge drinking, the ethics of personal responsibility and the importance of looking out for the welfare of others. Two BSU staff members also spoke, reviewing the university’s current strategies for alcohol education and prevention, which include a required freshman course, alcohol-free events and alcohol prohibition in residence halls. 

Hanson yesterday announced the formation of a joint university-community task force to develop a systemic approach to addressing the safety threat posed by alcohol abuse. He said that the task force will include students and will be guided in part by an upcoming student survey to better understand alcohol-related behaviors and attitudes.  Hanson said, “It’s hard work, but we must do this.”

28th January 2015

The Bemidji Fire Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office continue to investigate the cause of a house explosion Monday evening in Grant Valley Township.  Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer says the cause does appear to be accidental in nature and investigators believe it may be related to a propane gas leak in the home.  The home was totally destroyed in the explosion – which was felt by people for miles around. Kenneth Swenson was home when the house exploded and emergency crews quickly removed him from the debris.  He was taken to Sanford hospital by ambulance.  There has been no word on his condition.

27th January 2015

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s 911 Center received a number of calls regarding an explosion of some type in southwestern Beltrami County beginning at 5:35 PM on Monday evening,  January 26, 2015.  People living in Hubbard County near N Lake Plantagenet RD SW, Beltrami County in Grant Valley Township near Carr Lake Rd SW and other areas in between to also include callers from the City of Bemidji, reported hearing a loud explosion,  as well as experiencing windows rattling and a force strong enough to dislodge pictures from walls. Emergency responders immediately began fanning out and searching the area to determine the source.

                At 5:49 PM an additional caller reported he was on Buchanan Ave SW and that a house had exploded and smoke was coming from the residence.   Emergency crews immediately responded to the location.

                One person was injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. 

                Emergency responders from the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Leech Lake Ambulance, Bemidji Ambulance, Bemidji Police Department and North Country First Responders assisted the Bemidji Fire Department and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office at the scene.   

                An additional press release from Bemidji Fire Department Chief Hoefer will be forthcoming Tuesday morning. 

26th January 2015

Bemidji Fire Department responded to a residential structure fire early Saturday morning. The fire, which was reported at 6:30 am was located on the 800 block of Second Street SE. Bemidji Firefighters arrived on scene to find heavy fire on the first floor of the home, extending into the second floor and attic. Bemidji Firefighters encountered zero visibility and high heat upon entry but were able to quickly contain and extinguish the fire. 21 firefighters used three fire engines, three squads and a ladder truck on scene. No injuries were reported; however four dogs were lost. The fire department was on scene for approximately 3 hours. The fire caused extensive damage to the main floor, second floor and attic. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Bemidji Fire Department; however it does not appear to be suspicious in nature.  The fire department was assisted at the scene by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Bemidji Police Department, Ottertail Electric, and the Bemidji Ambulance Service.

20th January 2015

Sheriff Tom Burch reports that the Cass County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call for assistance on Friday January 16, 2015 at approximately 9:20 PM from Steamboat Bay on Leech Lake. A caller reported a vehicle had gone through the ice and 4 people were attempting to get out. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the Walker Fire Department responded to the area and located a full size SUV that had gone through thin ice with just the rear of the vehicle exposed. Four people did successfully escape from the vehicle and were able to get on a trailer that was attached to the vehicle, which did not break through. The Walker Fire Department’s hovercraft was used to rescue the parties. Two adults were transported to Bemidji Sanford for observation. No other injuries were reported.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office continues to urge extreme caution to be used on all area lakes.  Even through cold temperatures have helped ice conditions there are still many vulnerable areas around ice heaves, rivers and springs. Several known dangerous areas have been marked with thin ice signs, but conditions to change rapidly. All ice should never be considered 100% safe.

16th January 2015

Sheriff Tom Burch reports that on January 16, 2015 at approximately 7:49AM the Cass County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a vehicle partially through the slush and ice in the area of an ice heave near Sand Point on Leech Lake.  Officers and Walker Fire Department responded and located a full size pickup stuck in the slush and ice with two parties in the bed of the pickup, uninjured, but unable to safely get away from the pickup due to thin ice. The Walker Fire Department, using their hovercraft, successfully rescued the parties. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office urges strong caution to be used on all area lakes, even through cold temperatures have helped, ice conditions there are still many vulnerable areas around ice heaves, rivers and springs. All ice should never be considered 100% safe.


The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the MN DNR reminds everyone travelling on ice about the following safety tips.

Check for known thin ice areas with a local resort or bait shop.
Test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel, ice auger or even a cordless 1/4 inch drill with a long bit.

Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible.
If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry--keep windows down and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.

Stay away from alcoholic beverages.
Even "just a couple of beers" are enough to cause a careless error in judgment that could cost you your life. And contrary to common belief, alcohol actually makes you colder rather than warming you up.

Don't "overdrive" your snowmobile's/ATV’s headlight.
At even 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.

Wear a life vest under your winter gear.
Or wear one of the new flotation snowmobile suits. And it's a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks that may be home made or purchased from most well stocked sporting goods stores that cater to winter anglers. It's amazing how difficult it can be to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighted down with 60 lbs of water.

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