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DNR natural area caught in wide blaze

Firefighters worked for over two hours to extinguish the fire spreadh across the Grey Cloud Dunes State Natural Area. Courtesy of Cottage Grove Public Safety 1 / 3
Fire Chief Rick Redenius said firefighters protected homes along 113th Street from being reached by the fire in the Grey Cloud Dunes State Natural Area. Courtesy of Cottage Grove Public Safety 2 / 3
A fire spanned nearly 80 acres in the Grey Cloud Dunes State Natural Area April 25. The DNR used a helicopter to help extinguish the flames. Courtesy of Cottage Grove Public Safety 3 / 3

COTTAGE GROVE — A fire in the Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area lit over 80 acres ablaze for the better part of the afternoon April 25.

The land, managed by the DNR, caught fire before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and spread across the prairie area. DNR helicopters mapped the fire and dropped water on it from above.

On the ground, firefighters used water bag packs and ATVs fitted with sprayers to extinguish the vast brush and grass fire.

Over a third of the nearly 240-acre natural area was affected by the fire.

Cottage Grove Fire Chief Rick Redenius said it took about two-and-a-half hours to put out most of the fire. Crews worked after to put out any hot spots left in the area.

Firefighters protected homes abutting the nature area along 113th Street to ensure the fire did not spread to any homes.

The DNR is investigating the cause of the fire.

The Cottage Grove Fire Department and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were assisted by St, Paul Park, Newport, Woodbury, Lower Saint Croix Valley and Lake Elmo fire departments. Redenius said about 60 responders were present to fight the fire.

There were no injuries.

DNR spokesman Harland Hiemstra said the fire wouldn't be considered damaging to the area since controlled burns are a common management tool for the natural area.

Since spring has only just begun in earnest, Hiemstra said the animals usually found in the area would not have been around yet to be affected by the flames either.

The area — filled with prairies, sand dunes and wildflowers in the summer — is also considered an Audubon Important Bird Area. The natural area is open to the public for bird watching, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

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