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Early-morning barn fire ruled arson

Fire destroyed this pole barn on the U of M's property in Empire Township.1 / 3
Hay stored in the barn caused the fire to burn long and hot.2 / 3
A Rosemount fire/rescue truck got stuck in the soft ground Tuesday morning and had to be towed out.3 / 3

An early morning fire on the University of Minnesota's UMore Park property has been ruled an arson by the Dakota County Sheriff's department.

Called in just after 2 a.m. Thursday, the blaze leveled a pole barn off of Lone Rock Trail on the University-owned property.

Rosemount Fire was first at the scene, but the rural location necessitated the assistance of Farmington, Hastings and Randolph's fire departments, Rosemount fire chief Scott Aker said. The three assisting departments brought water tenders to the scene, keeping a constant flow of water for about five hours.

Assistant fire chief Jim Voelker said the shed and everything in it was a total loss.

"It was a pretty big fire," said Voelker.

Aker dismissed the assisting departments and most of his firefighters around 7 a.m. One rig, a Rosemount fire-rescue truck, stayed behind until about 9 a.m., because it got stuck in the soft, unfrozen ground.

The pole barn was used primarily for storage of hay bales and a few older pieces of machinery. The hay inside caused the fire to burn long and hot for several hours, Aker said. Once the blaze was knocked down enough, a front end loader was brought in to spread out the smoldering hay. Rosemount Fire left the pile to smolder and asked University staff to monitor the remains throughout the day and notify the fire department if there was a flare up, Aker said.

Voelker said firefighters were called out to the barn again Thursday afternoon.

Because all of Rosemount's trucks responded to the fire, Apple Valley sent rigs to cover Rosemount.

The pole barn was not used on a regular basis and was in a remote location on the property. Rosemount fire marshal John Kendall had not been to the scene by the time the fire department left Thursday, but Aker said Dakota County Sheriff's Deputies had been out to take a report. Voelker said late Thursday afternoon the sheriff's department had identified arson as the cause but did not have details of the investigation.

A damage estimate has not been released. Voelker said officials were trying to track down who may have had property in the shed. Besides straw, Voelker wasn't sure what other object may have been in the shed.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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