DENT, Minn. — All was calm on Star Lake, about 20 miles east of Pelican Rapids, on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 6, as many boats roamed the waters.

People living along the lake said they're taking this calm with a grain of salt, as they're still recovering from a fire that happened on a bridge along County Highway 41, which is right on top of the lake.

Mike Linnertz — who lives about 150 yards away from the bridge — got a front-row seat to the action.

"We heard, I don't want to call it an explosion, but when you put too much gas on a fire and light it, and you get that 'WOOMPH' sound," he said.

Two fire crews from Dent arrived at about midnight Sunday, and Linnertz said it took about three hours for them to put the fire out.

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He also said he saw crews find five propane tanks under the bridge, which is where most of the damage could be seen on Sunday afternoon.

A gap between two panels on the walking side of a bridge on County Highway 41 lingers after a fire on Sunday, Sept. 6. Tanner Robinson / WDAY
A gap between two panels on the walking side of a bridge on County Highway 41 lingers after a fire on Sunday, Sept. 6. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

Many people came to check out the damage by car and by boat, including some from about 20 minutes away.

"I can't imagine who would go to these lengths to destroy something like this," said Jay Reinan, who lives on nearby Lake Lida.

Jay and his wife, Nicole, usually take the bridge to get to their resorts on Lake Lida and Battle Lake.

Nicole Reinan said since the bridge is out of commission for now, the couple will have to find another route.

"It'll add more to our commute every day, and it's such a rural area," she said. "You don't think things are going to happen like this."

Otter Tail County sheriff's officers said they're currently investigating this fire as arson, but those living along the lake said having propane tanks under the bridge has led them to believe the fire was something beyond arson.

"It's almost like an act of terrorism," Jay Reinan said.

As people on the lake finish out their Labor Day weekends, they said they'll do so with caution, as they hope another fire doesn't happen.

"(Labor Day is) supposed to be fun and relaxing, and people could've gotten killed over this," Linnertz said. "This isn't fun. This isn't funny; this isn't a joke."