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Fires raised suspicion quickly

December 6, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Soon after 911 calls started rolling in after the first fire was reported at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the red flags went up in full force.

Tuesday's fire calls were anything but typical, simply because of the number of them and their proximity to one another.

"When you have that many fires in that kind of area that obviously throws red flags up for the fire departments and the sheriff's department," said Tony Rolling, Lyon County Sheriff's investigator and member of the Tracy Fire Department.

At least three fires were reported in northern Amiret Township and southern Clifton Township. The two major areas that received the most attention were a pair of wildlife areas.

The Tracy Fire Department was first to be called, and when reports of other fires started piling up, mutual aid was called. Fire departments from Balaton, Cottonwood, Garvin, Ghent, Marshall, Russell and Walnut Grove all responded to the area. They were soon joined by the Minnesota State Patrol and the Lyon County Sheriff's Department.

"The deputies went out to canvass the area (Tuesday night), going to different farm sites and visiting with homeowners to see if they saw anything suspicious," said Rolling. "We started the investigation as soon as we could - mapped out where all the different fires were so we could get a jump on it when daylight came."

Rolling said besides canvassing, law enforcement spent time taking photographs of the scenes and looking for evidence that the fires were started deliberately.

"Law enforcement was there fairly quickly," Rolling said. "A call came in on the first fire, and there was no burn permit issued, so a deputy was sent to check on it, then the 911 calls started coming in."

Rolling said investigating the potential of arson in wildlife fires is difficult because "they're out in the middle of nowhere. There were no witnesses, so it's hard to track down who the perpetrator is. That's why we canvassed the area to talk with homeowners to see if they maybe saw people driving through the area."



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