Firefighters get control of gas line explosion near Warren

“I’d never heard nothin’ like it in my life. It was just hell on earth, I tell ya, when you see those flames.” Fred Nicholls, 73, lives about one mile away from where an underground gas line ruptured near Warren in northwest Minnesota, creating a fireball and sending flames 100 feet into the air. The Grand Forks Herald had the story covered: The explosion was reported at 6:25 a.m. Monday and involved a gas line about three miles northwest of Warren that is owned by Viking Gas Transmission, based in Eagan. The line runs from Emerson, Manitoba, to Marshfield, Wisconsin. No cause has yet been found. No more than 700 customers are affected.

Environmental stewardship does work, at least for the lake sturgeon, once almost extinct in Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River. Brad Dokken of the Duluth News Tribune chatted last week with Tom Heinrich, large-lake specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Baudette. He and Dennis Topp, the DNR’s assistant area fisheries supervisor in Baudette, were taking a survey of the prehistoric fish. In 2004, a survey of the area found an estimated 60,000 sturgeon 40 inches or longer. In the late 80s, that number was about 16,000. The fish had been overharvested in the late 19th century for its roe, and pollution from the paper industry kept it from coming back. American and Canadian clean water legislation in the 1960s helped the fish recover and now, short-term recovery goals set by Minnesota and Ontario officials have been met. Long-term recovery goals call for an increase in male sturgeon to age 40 and females to 70 years old.

The well of brave, socially conscious people in Minnesota never seems to run dry. Kia Farhang and John Lamb of the Fargo Forum recently wrote an obituary for Roland Dille, the longtime president of Minnesota State University-Moorhead, who died Monday at 89. He was president from 1968 to 1994. In his inauguration speech, Dille said a college education must instill values in students, not just knowledge. “People said, ‘Why are your students so radical?’ I said, ‘Because we taught them to think,’ ” Dille said recently. Dille received death threats as he pushed to recruit black students and faculty. “Roland focused on diversity at a time when it wasn’t popular to focus on diversity,” said outgoing MSUM President Edna Szymanski. In 1969, he declined to renew the teaching post of a Vietnam War protester, yet he also hired poet Tom McGrath, known as “Tommy the Commie” for his works on social issues, to teach English. In 1982, he declined efforts to name him acting chancellor of the Minnesota State University System. President Jimmy Carter appointed Dille to the National Council for the Humanities, and Dille also served as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Speaking of Minnesota’s vast supply of brave, socially conscious citizens, organizers in Bemidji are planning the first Bacon and Beer Fest. Maggi Stivers of the Bemidji Pioneer has the rundown: The first-ever August Schell Brewery & Bernick’s United Way Bacon & Beer Fest will be May 31 at Sanford Center. Local food purveyors will provide bacon-inspired products and enter the August Schell Best Bacon Dish contest, a contest with no set rules. There will be a variety of microbrews to sample with the bacon dishes as well as the Bemidji Cooperative pig races and the Moondance Jam Battle of the Bands which will pick the best of these contestants: Catching Clarity, Kat and the Cosmic Stuntman, Pelican Railroad, The Acoust Hicks and Molly and the Dreamers. Later, the Bemidji Axeman indoor football team takes on the Texas Revolution, with the Lueken’s Monster Bacon Cheeseburger eating contest during halftime. Some of the proceeds will go to the United Way.

When you see this headline, you’ve got to stop and read the story: “Granada grad gets Godzilla gig.” It topped a Jenn Brookens story in the Fairmont Sentinel. Dann Saxton, a 1999 Granada-Huntley-East Chain High School grad, left for California to become an actor and musician. Saxton runs the Roxy in Los Angeles and has his own band, but neither of these things helped him get into the movie. When he learned a bowling alley had weak Sunday sales, he suggested he form a bowling league with free bowling and the alley would make up for the cost in drinks. The league now has 50-70 bowlers every Sunday. The general manager and Saxton became friends and song-writing partners. That man also works at Bridge Compositions, a shop that produces songs for TV and movies. Soon the pair was asked to compose a song for “Godzilla.” “It’s the scene where Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad is in his apartment in Tokyo, and his son has come to bring him back to the States. Our song is on the radio in the background.” Although Saxton’s parents moved to Rochester shortly after his graduation, he still makes his way to Fairmont. “When I come back, I still drive by my old house and wonder what it’s like now. And I always visit my grandma in Fairmont.”

Ellen Vancura is the general on the front lines of the battle against buckthorn. Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal has the details: Vancura spends as much time as she can in city parks pulling, sawing and lopping buckthorn. After cutting it with a small chainsaw and/or pulling it out of the woods, Vancura dabs herbicide on the stumps and takes the vines to the city burn pile. Buckthorn is a non-native, invasive plant that out-competes native plants and degrades wildlife habitat. Brought to the U.S. from Europe as a landscaping plant, buckthorn also reduces the diversity of plants, shrubs, wildflowers and songbirds. Buckthorn seeds are natural laxatives, so birds deposit them around trees where they grow, killing the tree and everything around it. When buckthorn is cut, multiple sprouts return, so an herbicide or a tin can is necessary to stop continued growth.

Gretta Becay of the Rochester Post-Bulletin is on top of the complicated Kasson School story. Chris Cuomo and Linda Jervis plan to buy the building this week from the city for $240,000, then sell it to the 1918 Kasson Public School LLP, which will renovate the three-story, three-section brick structure. After making repairs to the building, the partnership wants to sell it to Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services of Kansas, a company that rehabilitates old buildings into affordable housing. Company representative Clint Jayne said they would buy the building for $265,000 from the limited liability partnership if the tax credits from the state Housing Finance Agency are received. They would build housing for residents with income equal to 60 percent or less of the area’s median income, or between $30,000 and $40,000. Cuomo said there are other opportunities for the building if the tax credits fall through. Last year, part of the roof had sunk 2 to 3 feet lower than the rest, and one wall of the structure was leaning outward. Cuomo said fixing the roof will be the group’s first priority. The second priority will be to clean up the inside, outside and landscape. If the sale does not go through as planned this week, the city will demolish the school and use the land for a new library.

Fire engine photo by Flickr user Joe King and used under Creative Commons license.

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