Investigators still looking into Saturday Andover grass fires

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is trying to figure out why multiple grass fires broke out Saturday (April 27) in Andover.

Multiple grass fire broke out in Andover Saturday, April 27. The most impacted area, shown in this photo, was on the north side of Bunker Lake Boulevard near Blackfoot Street where about 60 acres burned. Photo by Eric Hagen

Multiple grass fire broke out in Andover Saturday, April 27. The most impacted area, shown in this photo, was on the north side of Bunker Lake Boulevard near Blackfoot Street where about 60 acres burned. Photo by Eric Hagen

The first grass fire call came around 4 p.m. in the vicinity of Hanson and Andover boulevards and fire crews were not done fighting the dozen different fires until approximately 7:30 p.m., according to Andover Fire Chief Dan Winkel.

Fires also broke out in marshland areas along Bunker Lake Boulevard all the way west to Blackfoot Street, which is just east of Seventh Avenue.

The fires never got close enough to any structures for the fire department to evacuate anyone, but Winkel knows that some residents along Blackfoot Street chose to leave their homes. This was the most impacted area with nearly 60 acres burned. Another sizable 15 to 20 acres of marshland burned behind the old Pov’s Sports Bar site where Walmart is going to be built.

The Minnesota DNR wildfire investigation team was still investigating as of Monday afternoon (April 29) and, according to Winkel, they have not found any signs that this was arson.

Winkel said the fires could have been caused by a vehicle dragging a muffler or a vehicle problem that would cause sparks to ignite dry grass, but the cause of the fire may never be known. Residents are encouraged to report any information they feel may help the investigation.

It is not unusual to get grass fires this time of year because the grass and brush is still dead from the winter, Winkel said.

They have been fighting grass fires every day since April 24, but having them break out at multiple locations around the same time is unique, he said.

Fire normally starts in one location and spreads out, according to Winkel. The first indication that something was wrong came when the department responded to the first call near Hanson and Andover boulevards, Winkel said, because the fire was spread out along a one-third mile stretch. Multiple calls started coming in to report other grass fires.

Although investigators have not determined the cause of most of these fires, Winkel said they know that juveniles started one of the grass fires on the 2900 block of 142nd Lane because residents saw the kids running from the area. This call came in as firefighters were fighting the other grass fires, so Winkel said they had to pull resources from elsewhere to respond to 142nd Lane. Anyone with information on this incident should call the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

At one point, nine different fire departments along with the Minnesota DNR helicopter, which dropped water, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office out of Bloomington were in Andover, Winkel said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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