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Bucyrus fire ignition to remain a mystery

How a wind-fueled grass fire that destroyed a small number of homes in Bucyrus last week started will remain a mystery. A report released Friday by the State Fire Marshall Division concluded the cause of the fire cannot be determined.

After investigating the fire scene on Tuesday, Deputy Fire Marshall Don Temple stated in the report that the fire started in a "stubble field" on farm land in western Adams County.

The fire -- which burned nearly 6,000 acres -- started the afternoon of Oct. 17 before burning into the night and destroying four occupied homes and a number of other structures in the small Adams County community. Nobody was injured.

The fire started on land owned by Mike Mellmer of Reeder and originated about 40 feet from a site where Mellmer burned and buried an outbuilding in March, according to the report.

When reached for comment before the report's release, Temple and Adams County State's Attorney Aaron Roseland told The Press that the official cause of the fire was "accidental, but unknown." In the report, however, there was no mention of the fire being "accidental."

Hettinger Fire Chief Mark Faller said the fire's place of origin was about 75 yards from railroad tracks.

"It's difficult to know how it started," Faller said. "I wasn't there when it ignited and, as far as I know, nobody knows how that fire started."

Public Information Officer Liz Brocker of the Attorney General's Office said the Fire Marshall Division would have no further information on the cause of the fire and referred all questions to the two-page report.

Though seven homes and the town's Lutheran church were spared during the blaze, the fire burned four homes completely to the ground, forcing those residents to find temporary housing. Officials said winds were clocked at 69 mph the day of the fire, aiding the blaze.

Donations for victims of the fire are being accepted by the Dakota Plains Federal Credit Union and can be mailed to: Bucyrus Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1020, Hettinger, N.D. 58639.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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