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DNR fights wildfire at Pillsbury State Forest

Mark Mortensen, program forester for the DNR, said 110 acres burned in the south1 / 2
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More than 100 acres of the Pillsbury State Forest burned in a forest fire that began late Friday night.

Mark Mortensen, program forester for the DNR, said 110 acres burned in the southeast corner of the forest located in Cass County. According to the DNR website, the forest is 25,612 acres in size and has walking and biking trails in a heavy forested area that consists of a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees.

“The fire started back in the woods and burned up to the area near Pillsbury Forest Road, which is off (County State Aid Highway) 77,” said Mortensen. “The fire started just before midnight it was contained around noon Saturday.”

Mortensen said the DNR used air tankers and ground equipment to fight the wildfire. Local DNR employees and civilians fought the fire, with help from the Conservation Corps Minnesota office in Bemidji and the Pillager Fire Department.

Pillager Fire Chief Randy Lee said about 18 firefighters responded to the wildfire reported at 11:40 p.m. Lee said the fire was back a ways in the woods. Lee said Pillager Fire assisted the DNR Saturday when the wildfire was threatening a couple of homes.

“It’s rough country out there,” said Lee on working on containing the fire. “It was hard for the DNR to get around on their bombardiers.”

Mortensen said a resident who lives near the forest called in the fire.

“They saw a lot of smoke and a glow in the sky,” said Mortensen. “It took us awhile to locate it. It’s pretty rugged terrain out there. We couldn’t run our equipment in the dark.”

Mortensen said the cause of the fire is under investigation. The DNR has an investigator on staff who will look into the cause of the fire.

Moretensen said five firefighters were on scene of the fire Monday and will be again Tuesday to “mop up,” making sure no hot spots are left and that the fire will not rekindle.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at