KARLSTAD, Minn. - First came the devastation of the fire itself, a fast-burning blaze that blackened thousands of acres, destroyed homes and outbuildings, and triggered the evacuation of an entire northwest Minnesota community.
But the news that came Wednesday is likely to hit the town of Karlstad just as hard; Investigators believe that the wildfire was purposely set.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says fire investigators believe the likely cause of the wildfire that scorched more than 4,400 acres in Kittson and Marshall Counties is a case of arson.
The Kittson County Sheriff, the Marshall County Sheriff and the DNR are offering a reward of up to $6,000 for information leading to identification of the arsonist.
The wildfire started the afternoon of Sept. 30 near the intersection of County Road 27 and 250th Avenue Northwest in Marshall County, and quickly grew. Over the next few days temperatures in the 70s, low relative humidity and sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph spread the wildfire over 4,440 acres and led to the evacuation of part of the city of Karlstad.
Eleven homes were destroyed and dozens of structures were damaged.
The DNR says fires started by arsonists cost Minnesota taxpayers millions of dollars each year. The cost to those who lost homes in the Karlstad fire is immeasurable.
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