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UPDATED: Busy streak continues for Perham firefighters

Perham firefighters put out an RV fire near Fort Thunder Road last Friday. The RV was a total loss.1 / 2
Perham firefighters have been helping to battle the large Park Rapids-Menahga area fire, with some crews working a 12-hour overnight shift last night. It's been a busy May for the Perham Fire Department, with more than 20 fire calls as of May 17. Submitted photo2 / 2

It’s been a busy May for the Perham Fire Department, with more than 20 fire calls already this month.

In just the past three days, firefighters have been called out seven times.

There were five fire calls on May 14, according to Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt, another one on Thursday, and one already today.

Perham firefighters have been called out twice to help out with the large Park Rapids-Menahga fire, most recently for a 12-hour shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight last night. Other calls have included grass fires along Highway 10 and near Murphy Lake (along 513th Street), a semi-truck fire and a fire at the city compost site. This morning, they assisted with a fire at Mid-State Auto Auction in New York Mills. The cause of that fire is still unknown.

A week earlier, on May 10, the fire department responded to a truck and train collision at a railroad crossing in Perham. Later that same day, they responded to a report of an RV on fire near Fort Thunder Road, behind the shooting range in Perham. Schmidt said the RV’s owners were doing some motor work to get the camper ready for the season when it overheated. The RV was a total loss. Their third call of the day came just before 6 p.m., when firefighters responded to a barn fire north of Perham. The barn was already engulfed in flames when they arrived; 40 cattle were killed in the blaze and the barn and some other farm equipment were also lost.

Things quieted down last Saturday, but by 9 a.m. last Sunday morning, firefighters were called out again, this time after a fire alarm went off at Tuffy’s Pet Food. It turned out to be a false alarm – the company was having some maintenance work done, and that accidentally set off a fire alarm. Just an hour and a half later, there was a report of an explosion at Lakeland Apartments in Perham. People reported hearing a loud ‘bang,’ Schmidt said, and when firefighters arrived the fire alarm was going off.

“That got us really concerned,” said Schmidt, but after clearing out the second floor, searching all those apartments, and talking to residents, firefighters didn’t find anything that may have caused the loud noise or the alarm to go off.

Many other recent calls have been related to grass fires, including one near Marion Lake earlier this month that burned about 3-4 acres, a big one in Corliss Township that took out about 79 acres, and several others in the Perham and New York Mills areas.

Schmidt said some of the fires have been caused by people burning garbage. Campfires have also been the culprit in some cases, with the recent strong winds carrying embers out of the fire pit and onto dry grasses.

People are reminded that Otter Tail County is currently under a burn restriction. Debris burning is not allowed. However, campfires smaller than three feet in diameter and three feet in height are allowed. At press time, the Minnesota DNR was giving Otter Tail County a fire danger rating of “Very High,” meaning fires start easily and spread at a very fast rate.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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