Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Cook County officials seek to remove boys from Mesabi Academy after reports of abuse, maltreatment

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 1:20pm

A recent and ongoing investigative series from American Public Media into the Mesabi Academy, which is a juvenile corrections facility on the Iron Range, has brought a string of reaction and emotion to the region and beyond. In this piece, WTIP's Joe Friedrichs take a look at the impact of this story as it relates to Cook County.

Click here to listen to production by American Public Media regarding the Mesabi Academy. 


Drones, private airplanes not a welcome sight near wildfires

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 9:15am

Over the last few days, there have been at least two intrusions in northern Minnesota involving the invasion of restricted airspace from people attempting to get near wildfires – one was a private airplane, the second an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) also known as a drone. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs reports on this story. 


Presentation to focus on hazardous barrels found in Lake Superior

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 12:17pm

The public is invited to attend a presentation on Wednesday, May 11 at the Grand Marais Public Library by Frank Koehn, a spokesman for a federally funded project to investigate barrels containing hazardous material that were dumped in Lake Superior some 60 years ago. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs spoke with Koehn about the upcoming presentation. 


Burglary at Grand Marais Pharmacy involves prescription drug theft

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 3:54pm

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department is looking for a suspect or suspects involved with a burglary at the Grand Marais pharmacy that occurred on Friday night, May 6. Anyone with information can call the sheriff’s department at (218) 387-3030. 


Emergency Services Conference recognizes emergency providers

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 12:52pm

In addition to all the training for emergency service workers at the Emergency Services Conference, there is a tradition of recognizing some of the hard-working people in our midst. At the Saturday night ES Conference dinner, Cook County Emergency Management Director Jim Wiinanen was pleased to announce the recipients of two awards in 2016.

The Dolly Johnson Friend of Emergency Services Award, named after the late Dolly Johnson, a beloved law enforcement dispatcher, often goes to a civilian who has aided Cook County emergency services in some way. This year though, the award went to a man who was recognized for his cooperative efforts across various emergency entities in the county.

Paul McFarlane and Tom Thompson of the Colvill Fire Department nominated Phil Bonin of Schroeder for the award. They noted his long tenure as Schroeder Fire Chief and his recent appointment as co-director of the Tofte/Schroeder EMS Squad.

Jim Morrison, the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department chief and Laura Popkes GTVFD ambulance director, along with Dr. Jenny Delfs, GTVFD medical director, nominated Kelly Dahl as the 2016 Outstanding Emergency Services Provider.

They noted that Dahl goes “above and beyond” the call of duty. In addition to being an emergency room RN and EMT, Dahl is a certified wilderness First Responder instructor. She was commended for giving Gunflint responders a realistic training experience, in part because of her skills in simulating injuries through moulage.

Dr. Delfs added kudos for Dahl’s work in improving EMS services, through training, writing grants and more. “My role of medical director would be much more difficult without her paddling with me…she’s the gal in the back of the canoe. It has been a fun trip,” wrote Delfs.


Artwork for the hospital

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 12:48pm

When the North Shore Hospital remodel/rehab is done, the hospital walls will be adorned with artwork because of a project spearheaded by Board Member Tom Spence.

“The art will be original paintings, photography or sculpture,” said Spence to the board, which several months ago gave him permission to pursue this project.

“The works of art should celebrate and reflect one or more aspects of the cultural, historical, geographical or community attributes of Cook County,” Spence said. “The selected art will be placed in areas of high profile to be observed and enjoyed by visitors, patients, residents and employees.”

Artists will submit a body of work that will be reviewed by the Johnson Heritage Post selection committee which will then recommend the artwork to a committee that will be formed by the North Shore Health, said Spence, adding, “The North Shore Hospital committee reserves the right to decline any recommended piece of art.”

Selected works will be displayed for 12 months with an identification plaque that will be purchased by North Shore Health for the artist. After six months the artwork can be offered for sale. Should a piece sell, the artist will receive all of the money. “Neither NSH nor Johnson Heritage Post will charge or receive a commission on the sale of art work,” said Spence. “The money will be all theirs.”

While it is the intention to rotate art every year, Spence said if the artist removes a piece before the year ends, the artist must give 30 days notice. Also, after 12 months, the artwork may remain on display by mutual agreement between the NSH and artist. 

Spence mentioned he had talked to the Grand Marais Art Colony and told them about the project, and hoped they would spread the word to the artists connected to them.

Update on wildfires burning in northeastern Minnesota

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 11:49am

WTIP's Joe Friedrichs spoke with Jean Goad, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, on May 9 about a series of wildfires in northeastern Minnesota. 

To view more photographs from Matt Herberg of the fires, click here. 


Grand Marais area fisheries announces survey work

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 10:04am

Fisheries staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Grand Marais area office will conduct surveys and assessments on several area lakes and streams during the next few months. WTIP's Joe Friedrichs spoke with Steve Persons from the local fisheries office. 


A little rain, a little cooler, a little snow...

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 10:04am

Good chance of rain in the mid-week forecast, but the long-range view is for warmer but dry weather. Oh, yes, there is a mention of possible snow by the weekend. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Stewart.


Fire destroys structure at Hedstrom Lumber

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 10:32am
Hedstrom fire

At approximately 7:20 a.m. this morning, May 7, pages went out to the Maple Hill and Grand Marais Volunteer Fire Departments to respond to a fire at Hedstrom Lumber Mill.

Firefighters arrived on the scene to find fire burning inside a large metal structure on the north side of the main lumber mill building. Working in tandem, the fire departments set up on opposite sides of the structure to hit it with water. Tanker trucks traveled back and forth to the nearby hydrant at Devil Track River, filling drop tanks for hoses.

It seemed apparent that the building, which was once used for planing equipment but is now primarily storage, could not be saved. As the building abuts the main mill efforts were primarily to keep the fire from spreading to that building. Also concerning was the large pipe overhead that were once used to blow sawdust to bagging sawdust. Firefighters worked to ensure they were not under those as the building started to fall. As the metal walls weakened, the big pipe came crashing down, still partially attached.

Hedstrom Lumber staffers stood by with heavy equipment to assist as needed and as the fire died down, Mike Kimball used a piece of equipment with a battering ram-type attachment, used to break open clogged sawdust silos, to push the walls down and to knock the big pipe down.

Firefighters remain on the scene at 10:15 a.m. mopping up hot spots and monitoring the smoldering remains to make sure the fire does not re-ignite and spread.

The cause of the fire will be investigated, but it is suspected that the recent extremely dry conditions played a role. It is possible that a heater motor ignited the fine sawdust that is pervasive at the mill.

Local high schoolers attempt to rescue injured red fox

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 9:42am

Despite the valiant rescue efforts of two local high schoolers, a red fox died on Wednesday, May 4 at Wildwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation in Duluth.

Jaret Baker and Andrew Lashinski had hopes that the little red fox they found on a Cook County back road would survive. The young men discovered the fox lying on the trail they were traveling on May 1, too weak to move, with a gash on its neck and a leg injury.

They carefully bundled it up in their coats and got it to safety and eventually to the Wildwoods Wildlife facility. At first it was believed the fox, was sick because it had lost part of its right leg, probably in a foothold trap. The loss of its leg likely made hunting very difficult, which lead to its extreme emaciation and the wildlife center began feeding it an easy-to-digest diet made specifically for debilitated carnivores—which the starved animal eagerly guzzled down.

The fox needed some additional tests, but the Wildwoods staff planned to start looking for a placement for the fox as an education animal, as he would never be releasable to the wild.

However, on May 4, Jaret and Andrew got bad news. After a comprehensive vet check, it was determined that not only had the red fox lost part of its leg in a trap, it had probably been hit by a car recently, leaving it paralyzed on one side. With only one functioning leg remaining, the fox would never walk and would likely never be free from pain. The Wildwood staff said a gentle release was sadly the kindest choice.

Anyone who would like more information about Wildwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation, you can find them on Facebook or visit their website at


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at




Boaters can get I-68 forms in Grand Marais May 7-8, May 14-15

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 4:37pm

If you plan to boat into Canadian waters and come back into the U.S., your best bet will be to obtain Form I-68 from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Those forms will be available in Grand Marais at the Border Patrol Station on Highway 61 on May 7-8 and May 14-15 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

While there is no requirement to get Form I-68, boaters who choose not to obtain the document must report, in person, for inspection by a CBP Officer at a port-of-entry each time they enter the United States. U.S. boaters who enter the country with aliens who don’t have a Form I-68 and without reporting for inspection may be subject to fine and/or possible seizure of the boat. Also, people traveling by boat who do not have this form and fail to present themselves for inspection are subject to arrest, possible fine, or if a non-U.S. Citizen, removal from the United States.

After an initial inspection the Form I-68 allows boaters to report their arrival into the U.S. by phone without having to appear at a port-of-entry for an in-person inspection. An initial inspection involves an interview, checking the individual in the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) and possibly other law enforcement databases, completion of the form I-68, and payment of a fee.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Extreme fire danger in Cook County

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 4:36pm

For most of the state—including Cook County—the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has posted its fire danger rating as “Extreme,” meaning the fire situation for most of the state is “explosive.”

Under these conditions, the state will not allow open burning of brush and yard debris. Burning restrictions occur in the spring when the snow melts, and fuels like dry grass and leaves are exposed to dry winds and increased fire potential. Restrictions remain in place until sufficient green up, usually four to six weeks during April or May.

Residents can find the latest burning restrictions at or contact the local DNR forestry office to obtain current information on fire danger and burning restrictions.

The National Weather Service has issued its own notice. A “Red Flag Warning” is in effect for much of North-Central to Northeast Minnesota due to very dry and windy conditions.

The fire conditions are very similar to that at the start of the 2007 Ham Lake wildfire, which burned 75,000 acres and approximately 138 structures, began with a small campfire.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at


WTIP Weekend News Roundup for May 7

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 10:53am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days. The move to strip down IRRRB continued for another week, Lake Superior levels are down, and unemployment in the region is up…all this and more in the week’s news.



Fires in Canada, near Iron Range town bring smoke to Cook County

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 7:45pm

Smoke lingering in Cook County Friday evening is the result of wildfires burning in Canada and a series of fires near Hoyt Lakes, which is a small town on the Iron Range approximately 110 miles from Grand Marais. 

The USDA Forest Service says eight to ten fires started along railroad tracks in the Skibo Road area east of Hoyt Lakes at around 3 p.m. The fire is believed to have grown to about 100 acres.

Authorities say several structures are threatened and evacuations are underway in the Skibo Junction area. An exact number of people being evacuated was not immediately available.

"The last report was that some of the fires had grown together," Forest Service public information officer Tim Engrav reported in a news release at 6:30 p.m.

Fire danger is extreme across northern Minnesota. High temperatures, low humidity, and high winds are making firefighting difficult. Multiple ground crews and aircraft are fighting the fire, and contending with gusty northwest winds and haze drifting into the area from Canadian wildfires.

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