FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN – A discarded cigarette led to a large grass fire in a swamp between Watertown and Delano Tuesday, according to Watertown Fire Chief Wade Stock.
His department was called to the fire at 1495 110th St. SE in Franklin Township around 4:25 p.m.
Fire departments from Delano, Montrose, Mayer, St. Bonifacius, and Victoria provided mutual aid, as did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources helicopter.
Smoke from the fire was reportedly visible from as far west as Hutchinson and as far north as Maple Lake, just one indicator of the size of the blaze.
“It was 60.5 acres,” Stock said. “I only know that because the helicopter took GPS footage. It’s hard to tell when you’re standing on the ground. We had the DNR helicopter out there, so it was taking GPS of the whole burn area. They did water drops with it. That’s what put out the majority of it.”
Nearly 70 firefighters responded to the scene, with some going on foot or by ATV to attack the fire with blowers and water, while others parked fire engines on neighboring properties and stood by to protect them.
No injuries, property damage, or property loss was reported.
Stock said the scene was cleared at 7:41 p.m.
He used the incident to remind residents of the current fire risk.
“Everybody just needs to be cautious with the dry conditions out there,” Stock said. “It will be a busy spring until we get rain and things green up. We encourage no burning whatsoever. It wouldn’t take much to get away from you.”
He believes official burn restrictions will be in place soon, noting that the DNR helicopter, based in Princeton, responded to five fire calls Tuesday alone.