Wyoming Public Safety had a big couple of days last weekend, and first responders were assisted by some timely help from local residents.
Around 6 p.m. on May 17, a boat caught fire on Comfort Lake. According to Chief of Public Safety Paul Hoppe, some boaters had launched their boat for the first time this year and had taken it out, but when the driver throttled up the boat, a small explosion was heard in the engine compartment, igniting the craft.
“In less than a minute, that whole boat was ready to go up in flames,” Hoppe said.
Fortunately, three nearby fishermen -- Darrell Debele, Mark Schauer, Troy Wilcox, all of Stacy – were nearby, and they quickly boated over to retrieve those aboard the burning craft. Their heroism was all the more important, Hoppe said, because escaping a boat fire, especially at this time of year, is not as simple as just jumping out of the boat.
“Those temperatures aren’t at swimming condition right now,” he said, adding that at current water temperatures, hypothermia could be induced very quickly – to say nothing of the possibility that leaking fuel could ignite on the surface of the water.
Wyoming firefighters quickly came to the scene, but they did not have a boat to respond to the fire. Hoppe praised the team’s ingenuity, explaining that the firefighters rigged up a pumping system at the house closest to the fire and sprayed water on the boat from the land. Then, when a boat from the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office arrived, firefighters stretched a hose across two boats to get the water to its intended target.
One of the passengers of the burning boat received minor burn injuries, but no one was seriously hurt.
The next day, around 9 p.m., a passing motorist called police to report a suspicious item on the bridge over Sunrise Creek on East Viking Boulevard. Police arrived and found an improvised explosive device there, and the St. Paul bomb squad was called to defuse it. After the device was deconstructed, police were able to examine its contents: some fountain type fireworks and starting fluid. Whoever left the device had attempted to ignite it.
Who placed the device and what their intents for it were are unknown, but Hoppe said it was fortunate that the device hadn’t exploded.
“When you start combining chemical products, you really don’t know what the outcome is going to be. … It very well could have been some injuries even to the people who were messing around with it,” he said.
Hoppe said the debris from an explosion could very well have become shrapnel in the case of an explosion, which he said should serve as a warning for anyone intending to “get creative” with fireworks this summer.