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Waseca grass fire contained after burning nearly 2,000 acres, injuring 2 firefighters and 1 resident

Crews monitor for hotspots after Waseca wildfire
Crews monitor for hotspots after Waseca wildfire 02:25

WASECA, Minn. — A massive wildfire over the weekend left behind acres of charred land in southern Minnesota. Two firefighters and a resident were hurt in the Waseca flame, a city about 70 miles south of the Twin Cities.

Bud Deno had a front-row seat of the fire from his kitchen window.

"I could see a fire out there, so I called it in, but they said there was 25 guys out there already," he said. "They were fighting it, but with that wind, they couldn't handle it."

Sunday afternoon, his rural Waseca home was surrounded by fire. In the aftermath Monday morning, all that's left beyond his backyard is soot and smoke.


State fire officials say the fire took out less than 2,000 acres. While multiple residents were evacuated, no structures were damaged or destroyed. With such a massive blaze, it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. Multiple fire agencies in the area were called in to help—neighbors stepped in too.

"I got here, Dad got a hose, and I started spraying back there. It was about 75 feet away. I got out there and told the guys you need to get out there now," Bud's son, Bob said.

Bob said he could hear the roar of the fire over the 50-mile-per-hour winds. The pair quickly jumped into action, grabbing hoses and spraying the perimeter of Bud's home. Meanwhile, fast-moving flames were getting threateningly closer.

"All the sudden it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and I said, 'oh my god!' Bud said.

Bud was terrified of losing his home to fire. It would be the second time.

"I'm going to lose my house again," he recalled. "Ain't going to rebuild again. Getting too old."

More than a decade ago lightning hit the back door while he was out of town, destroying the home he and his wife shared. Luckily this time, his home and others impacted by the acres wide grass fire were unscathed.

The fire pushed thick, dark smoke into the air that could be seen for miles. According to the Waseca County Sheriff's Office, the fire was centered near Snake Trail. Nearly a dozen homes were evacuated just as a precaution, but none were destroyed.

One person and two firefighters were hurt. The firefighters were treated and released, while the resident's condition is unknown as of Monday afternoon. 

GALLERY: Aftermath of large Waseca County wildfire

Heather Breck watched the fire quickly move toward her house on Sunday, helpless to stop it.

"It was just coming closer and closer," Breck said. "We thought we were going to lose our home. It was very scary. It was terrifying."

Breck and her family evacuated with their dogs and photos, as did at least half a dozen of her neighbors.  

Breck says she got lucky when the wind changed, allowing fire crews to cut off the flames.


The closeness and care of the community were also on display, as Ashley Lloyd prepared for a possible evacuation of her own.

"Strangers pulling in and asking, 'What can I do to help? What can I take away from here to help?'" Lloyd said. "Just very, very awesome."

Father and son Bud and Bob Deno spent hours Sunday spraying hoses around the perimeter of Bud Deno's backyard. Bob Deno says Sunday's wind kept the flame moving quickly.

"Even over the 50-mile-per-hour winds, you could hear the roar," he said. "I got out here. Dad got a hose out and I started spraying back here and it was about 75 feet away and it was like, I got out of there, went down there and told the guys, 'Get back there now!'"

Waseca was part of the area under a red flag warning Sunday. The National Weather Service said conditions in the area were ideal for spreading fires.

"Red flag warnings are just critical fire conditions, and when an unintended fire develops in those grasses, it's driven by the winds," said Leanne Langeberg, with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. "That's why it's not surprising to see how rapidly this fire spread to the size that it did."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the fire impacted air quality along the Interstate 35 corridor from Waseca to the Twin Cities.

The National Interstate Fire Center has released data that shows Minnesota and northern Wisconsin will have an increased risk for wildfires this spring.

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