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ALONG THE GUNFLINT TRAIL -- Thursday afternoon found Sue Ahrendt surrounded by boxes in the canteen of Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters. Mail hadn't been delivered to the outfitter on Saganaga Lake in the northern reaches of the Gunflint Trail until Tuesday, and Ahrendt, who owns Tuscarora with her husband, Andy, had T-shirts to fold and stack, Butterfinger candy bars to shelve and souvenirs to put on display. "It's a bit of a scramble," Ahrendt said. Tuscarora was the first area evacuated nearly three weeks ago when the Ham Lake fire began to spread.
WILLMAR -- Go ahead. Buy the ingredients for the s'mores at home and pack them for wherever your family is headed for the holiday weekend. Just don't plan to haul your own wood for the fire to roast the marshmallows. This weekend is the unofficial start to summer; it is also the start to an educational effort at Sibley State Park, and all Minnesota state parks, to help campers understand why they can't bring their own firewood.
WILLMAR -- The retired Navy F-14 Tomcat jet fighter -- parked for more than five years at a reserve military base at the Minneapolis/St.
EAGAN, Minn. - Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday moved Minnesota closer to snuffing out smoking in nearly all workplaces by signing a statewide smoking ban decades in the making. Minnesota has been a national leader in trying to deter smoking, Pawlenty said, and a ban will help make citizens "more aware about the dangers of smoking itself, but also and importantly the dangers of secondhand smoke." "This is something whose time has come," the GOP governor said. The ban goes into effect Oct. 1 and extends an existing indoor smoking prohibition to bars, restaurants and bingo halls.
ST. PAUL - The Democrat-controlled Legislature planned to approve six budget bills Wednesday, including four replacing earlier bills Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed. Here is a look at the half-dozen budget bills: Economic development Business and workforce development programs would be funded at $345 million over the next two years. Lawmakers removed $35 million in overall general fund spending from an earlier budget package.
James Raml and his friend Ted Young had been hosing down Raml's home on the south shore of Seagull Lake for many hours on Sunday when they heard the wind had shifted. The Ham Lake fire was running fast toward a stand of young jack pine, straight toward the line of homes at the end of Seagull Lake Road. Raml was about to tell Young it was time to pack up and go "when the next thing I know, I felt really hot, and I heard that roaring sound," Raml said on Monday. He turned, and saw 50-foot flames rolling over a ridge about 100 feet from his home.
ALONG THE GUNFLINT TRAIL -- The Ham Lake fire blazed an ugly path of destruction Sunday night into Monday morning, burning an estimated 40 homes, cabins and outbuildings and becoming Minnesota's most damaging wildfire in decades. The fire, apparently sparked by an unattended campfire early Saturday, had burned across more than 16,500 acres by Monday evening and was spreading into Canada. The fire turned parts of this dead-end, wilderness-road community into a charred disaster area.
Spring started slowly with an early April cold snap, but conditions are shaping up for decent fishing when Minnesota's walleye season opens Saturday. According to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, the ice as of May 1 was out on most of Minnesota's lakes except for a few in the far northern part of the state. It might seem late, he says, but things actually are pretty much on schedule. "I would not describe this as a late spring in any sense of the word," Drewes said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizen's Board directed the agency Tuesday to begin to negotiate cleanup agreements with 3M for the Cottage Grove plant and Woodbury and Oakdale disposal sites. The Board postponed the MPCA Commissioner's recommendation to issue a formal Request for Response Action from 3M for the perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination at the three sites. The formal request would have been the first step toward bringing the investigation and response actions under the state Superfund law, but would have been a unilateral action by the MPCA. The action taken by the Ci