Just hours after the Koochiching County Board expanded its taxing district to offer rural fire protection to Rainy Lake islands Tuesday, a fire call came in for a property on Grindstone Island.
Firefighters responded to a report of a lightening strike to a propane tank shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday on the southwest end of Grindstone Island.
Falls Fire Chief Adam Mannausau said neighbors to the property reported the fire was caused by a lightening strike. When crews arrived at the scene, the propane tank was in tact and lightening struck near it, leaving a hole in the ground.
The property, owned by Ginger Romosz, sustained minor damage, according to a post on The Journal’s Facebook page.
“Thanks to my neighbors there was no major damage,” she wrote.
Mannausau said 21 firefighters responded and were on the scene for less than an hour. Crews reported to Voyageurs National Park Rainy Lake Visitor Center, where two park boats, a U.S. Board Protection boat and the Koochiching County Sheriff’s boat waited for transportation.
Koochiching County Board Chairman Brian McBride told The Journal Wednesday it was ironic the Grindstone Island incident occurred shortly after Tuesday’s resolution was passed.
“What are the chances?,” he wondered.
The resolution passed unanimously following a public hearing about expanding the Rural Fire Protection Association taxing district to include the islands of Rainy Lake within the boundaries of Koochiching County.
McBride said the hearing drew about 12 people and included those in favor and opposed to the district.
“Each side presented their discussions,” he said.
The purpose of the expansion is to create additional revenue from island property owners to purchase and maintain a fire boat to help fight fires on Rainy Lake and mainland fires along the shore.
Properties with Rainy Lake island dwellings will be assessed the annual service charge for fire protection, according to the policies and procedures established by the Rural Fire Protection Association, or RFPA. The island properties include about 200 parcels with structures.
A survey distributed earlier this year showed that 72 percent of those who responded supported a fire boat. More than half of property owners responded to the survey, and 2-to-1 respondents favored expanding the district.
In addition to using the boat for island fires, it could also be used to assist with firefighting on lake shore properties with no road access, officials discussed last fall. There has also been discussion about exploring a mutual aid agreement with Canada.
A new boat would cost from $170,000 to $180,000, while a used boat is between $80,000 to $100,000.