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New Richmond firefighters head into the fire zone to battle the blaze.

Grass, pine fire threatens Somerset homes

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A large grass fire in a tinder-dry stand of pine trees in Somerset was being battled by firefighters Friday afternoon.

Dispatchers received a call of a small fire near the Somerset Elementary School at around noon.

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The fire started on the northern edge of the school district's property. Because of the wind direction, the schools were never in any danger, according to District Administrator Randy Rosburg.

By the time firefighters were on the scene, the blaze had grown considerably because of plenty of dry fuel in the wooded area.

As the wind kicked up, the fire spread toward homes in the Somerset Meadows development to the northwest of the school campus.

Smoke billowed skyward as homeowners nervously watched as the fire creeped closer to their houses. One resident started his water sprinkler in his backyard to try and keep any flames at bay. Another resident rescued his pets from their home, bringing one cage to a neighbor's place for safe keeping.

Firefighters from Somerset, New Richmond, Osceola and St. Joseph responded to the scene. Calls for help also were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Xcel Energy to turn off electricity to the homes in the area.

Firefighters had a tough time getting to the blaze, which was several hundred feet from nearby homes and fire hydrants.

Crews were still on scene after an hour.

There was no immediate cause determined for the fire. At least one witness indicated to police that several young boys were seen in the wooded area earlier in the morning and the witness said they heard the possible sound of fireworks going off.

Look for a complete story and photos in next week's New Richmond News.

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