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Storm-Felled Trees Could Spark Northern Minn. Fires

HINCKLEY, Minn. (WCCO) -- Two Minnesota storms have left a mark so big, it'll take several years to clean up the damage done to the Hinckley, Minn., area from last summer.

St. Croix State Park was hit. St. Croix, Chengwatana and Nemadji State Forests were struck hard too. On top of the damage, the storms left behind underlying dangers.

"This area, in particular, was hit the hardest," said Jeremy Fauskee, Sandstone Area Forest Supervisor, about a stretch of area within St. Croix State Forest.

Storms destroyed just shy of 28,000 acres of productive timberland, encompassed within an area of approximately 200,000 acres.

"We've got about 40 percent removed," Fauskee said. "We're about halfway complete on the salvage of this, but there's still a lot of work left."

Fauskee said the quantity and magnitude of the storm means it'll take much longer to cleanup, several years in fact. Part of the reason why is because mills have a tough time absorbing so much wood at once.

There's also the danger of fires starting with the wood and brush. Extra precautions are taken in case one breaks out.

A helicopter is on standby at Hinckley's airport. It's able to drop water from a bucket as several fire trucks and equipment, along with nine additional seasonal firefighting staff, are on-hand.

"Our best tactic is to hit it early, hit it hard and keep the fire small," Fauskee said.

Emergency evacuation plans are also in place if a fire happens. And once cleanup is over, there are plans to help pines, aspens and oak grow again.

"It'll be awhile, but we hope it comes back just the way it was before," Fauskee said.

Some areas will regenerate naturally. Other areas might need seed to sprout new growth.


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