Cause of grass fire in Mounds View is unknown

courtesy of Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department • A grass fire burned Nov. 29 off Interstate 35W at the off-ramp for County Road I in Mounds View before the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department extinguished it.

The Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department was called to extinguish a grass fire Nov. 29 near Interstate 35W at the County Road I off-ramp, resulting in the momentary shut down of the ramps for the county road.

The cause of the fire is unknown and still under investigation, according to Lt. firefighter Anthony Scavo. 

The SBM fire department received a call about a possible grass fire at 11:36 a.m. Mounds View police officers, who had gotten to the scene first, confirmed to the fire department that there was a fire, which was burning on the southbound side of I-35W, in the grass next to the County Road I off-ramp. 

Due to windy and dry conditions, Scavo said the fire began spreading in different directions. The fire drifted south, jumping the off ramp to the other side to burn more grass. 

An additional firefighting crew arrived to tackle the grass fire as it broke south. The initial crew concentrated on the fire headed north of the exit. 

Scavo said some of the fire burned grass under the highway fence, prompting another crew in a jeep to go to the other side of the fence. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources came out to help in some spots, and the water tender truck had to come and refill the fire trucks, Scavo said. 

Firefighting efforts required the County Road I ramps to be closed.

“We don’t like to shut down roads,” said Scavo, adding that the fire department only interrupts traffic flow when it’s absolutely necessary to “shave” or shut down lanes to keep crews safe.

In about two hours, the fire was extinguished. The firefighters were prepared for a grass fire, Scavo said. The DNR warned all fire stations to be on alert for grass fires for the week, because of the windy and dry conditions. 

Though grass fires in the region are not typically as big as the Nov. 29 fire, Scavo said they happen every year. A grass fire just needs the “right ingredients,” he said. The recipe calls for dry conditions, low relative humidity and a dash of wind. 

Scavo said wind is the greatest variable — there’s no telling where it will blow a grass fire. 

Conditions usually hit the grass fire sweet spot in the spring after the snow melts and the dead, dry grass is exposed to the wind. With little precipitation to coat the dry, dead grass, this past November replicated those conditions. 

Scavo said it is very difficult to find the cause of a grass fire. He said it appears to have been started by sparks from a car heading southbound and that the investigation has pinpointed a few spots the fire could have potentially started along the highway, but the fire department is still investigating.

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at or 651-748-7815.

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