Cottonwood seeds fuel Brooklyn Park fire - KMSP-TV

Cottonwood seeds fuel Brooklyn Park fire

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BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (KMSP) -

Cottonwood seeds cover the grass and make plenty of people sneeze, but did you know they can be fuel for a fire?

Monday evening neighbors on Hampshire Avenue noticed flames. They called 911 and got their 88 year old neighbor safely out of the house.

"I looked out the window and saw flames out the left side of the house and I started screaming and hollering for my daughter to call 911.

With everyone safe investigators turned their attention to other neighbors who live next door. Brooklyn Park Police arrested Marcia Jones and Lawrence Olson for suspicion of negligent fires. Police say the couple was messing around lighting the cottonwood seeds in their yard on fire and the flames spread to a bush, a fence and the next door neighbors home 30 feet away.

"It appears these people were negligent and they are going to have to answer up for their actions on this day," says Inspector Todd Milburn. Inspector Milburn says the department is waiting to find out how much damage the fire caused. About a third of the house is burnt, and if the damage is more than $2,500 worth the couple food face felony charges, up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"It (cottonwood) all just goes so fast the wind will catch it and it's just gone instantly," says Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman.

Prillaman compares the cottonwood seeds often floating like snow through many communities to the batting inside of any blanket, but it should not be burned for any reason.

"We've heard reports that the standard way that many people are using to clear this stuff out of their driveways and sidewalks is to burn it off because it burns so quickly. The problem of course is that it burns off so quickly...and can easily get away from you," says Prillaman.

Jones and Olson were released from jail, and awaiting charges. Jones told Fox 9 outside of her home ‘Yeah, it was an accident," says Jones. "I was over here in the driveway doing it... but somebody else set that on fire."

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