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Neighbors beat grassfire away from Gully, Minn., homes until fire crews arrive

In Gully, Minn., a town of about 60, about half the town's residents rushed to the edge of a neighborhood to fight a large grassfire approaching some homes

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When Nolan Weber and his wife noticed cars flying past their westside Gully, Minn., house around 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, they looked out their window and saw black smoke rising about a half-block away.

Weber wasted no time – he filled the sprayer on his ATV with water and sped to the scene, where a large grassfire was approaching the line of homes at the edge of the neighborhood in Gully, about 48 miles east of Crookston.

Neighbor Cheryl Nybo said she had just come back from Fosston, and as she approached Gully, she saw the same flames and black smoke rolling up over the hill. She says she is too old for fighting fires, but she called the Gonvick Fire Department.

By that time, Weber said that nearly half the residents in the town of about 60 must have been out fighting the fire with whatever tools were handy. A few people sprayed the fire with water, as Weber did, Nybo said. But mostly, people used shovels, old rugs and whatever else was available.

"It got within 10, 15 feet of a couple of houses," Weber said. "Everyone kind of tried to stay organized, where people with just the shovels and stuff stayed up closer to the houses after we sprayed and then those of us with ATVs and sprayers tried to get ahead of it a little bit."

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He estimates it was about 20 minutes before fire crews arrived.

Clearbrook Fire Chief Adam Krog said they see grassfires in the area eight or 10 times a year, but generally grassfires of this scale only happen once or twice a year.

He doesn't believe the fire necessarily would have devastated the neighborhood, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a dangerous situation, Krog said.

"It could have been dangerous to the homes but at the same time, grassfires like that don't like to burn across people's actual yards," he said. "A lot of times they stop at the edge of the yards, and on a few of the yards it did burn up their yards and stopped. I mean, it was good that we were there, and thankfully no buildings were caught."

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, a small shed and a trailer were lost in the blaze. Nybo recalled watching the trailer go up in flames; on the other side of the trailer was a shed.

"And next to the shed would be their house and garage," she said, explaining the fire's proximity to the residence. "They got it all, and it was really hot. Somebody said it melted something on his jacket, so I know it was getting hot."

The Sheriff's Office credits the quick efforts of the neighbors for saving the houses.

The fire was likely exacerbated by the dryness of the season, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will investigate the cause of the blaze, as well as the size and the origin.

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Thursday, Nybo said she and her neighbors were feeling lucky.

"It's scary," she said. "With fire, you have to watch so doesn't come in behind us. I was thinking, I'm so glad it was during the day because at night, how many of us would have been sleeping and not noticed?"

Related Topics: FIRES
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