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Police arrest two men in Manvel fire

The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department arrested two Minnesota men this week and charged them in connection with a May 1 grass fire that scorched 1,000 acres near Manvel, N.D.

The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department arrested two Minnesota men this week and charged them in connection with a May 1 grass fire that scorched 1,000 acres near Manvel, N.D.

William Hess, 48, of Trail, Minn., was arrested Tuesday and Alan Nelson, 42, of Gonvick, Minn., was arrested Friday.

Both men were charged with failure to control or report a dangerous fire, which is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

According to Maj. Mike Fonder of the Sheriff's Department, Hess told Nelson, who worked for him, to start the fire to burn off the grass. It was part of a plan to put the quarter-section of land, or 160 acres, back into crop cultivation after it had been in the Conservation Reserve Program for years. In the CRP, land considered highly erodible is kept in perennial grasses in return for an annual rent paid by the federal government to the landowner. With historically high crop prices, many farmers are putting CRP acres back into crop production. According to a firefighter, Hess works for a company that installs drain tile under farmland.

According to Fonder, the May fire quickly jumped a road in high, dry winds that day and spread to another parcel of grass lands. Winds were 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph that day.

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The fire endangered nearby property and people, coming within 50 feet of one home, Fonder said in a news release.

Fire departments from Grand Forks, Manvel, Gilby, Emerado and Thompson, N.D., fought the blaze.

Hess posted a $500 bond and is scheduled to appear June 17 in state district court in Grand Forks. Nelson appeared Friday in court and was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond; he is scheduled to make his next court appearance July 24.

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