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A busy – but mostly safe – holiday: July 4 brings lots of traffic, tubers and fireworks to lakes area

Detroit Lakes businesses join together to raise the funds for hiring a professional fireworks company to do the July 4 display on the city beach, which includes fireworks in a wide variety of colors and shapes. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)1 / 2
Picture-perfect weather brought big crowds out to Detroit Lakes and its City Beach on Wednesday afternoon – many of them choosing to stay for the Independence Day fireworks show that evening as well. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)2 / 2

Sunny skies, warm — but not too hot — temperatures, and an abundance of opportunity to get out and enjoy the variety of water sports available in the lakes area added up to a busy Fourth of July holiday for local law enforcement.

There were no major injuries or incidents reported, however, according to both Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander and Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd.

The most excitement of the day occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday, said Glander.

Rescuers used chainsaws and a skid steer tractor to clear roads from fallen trees after a man was hit by a falling tree during early morning storms that rolled through the area.

Jeff Brian Panzer, 44, of Farmington, was hit by the tree while camping with three others on the east side of Elbow Lake in Eagle View Township, on the northern edge of Becker County.

According to a news release from Glander's office, Panzer was under an awning at the time the incident occurred. After the storm, members of his party had to walk out of the area for help due to impassable roads from fallen trees.

Panzer was transported by White Earth Ambulance to Essentia Health St. Mary's Hospital in Detroit Lakes, with non-life-threatening injuries.

Other than that, most of the incidents reported to the sheriff's office and DL police department were typical July 4 fare: Fireworks complaints, a handful of DWI arrests, disorderly conduct and a few other misdemeanors.

"It was busy," said Chief Todd. "There appeared to be a lot of families out enjoying the beach during the day, and a real swell of family attendance at the fireworks display that night.

"There were certainly times when we had all our officers busy on calls... but there were no major incidents and nobody was seriously hurt, so that was a blessing and we're thankful," he said, adding, "It was a successful event."

"Our deputies were busy, but nothing unusual for the Fourth of July in this area," Glander agreed. "There were a few fireworks complaints, and a lot of traffic in the area. Our boat and water deputies were very busy patrolling the lakes, and we had put some extra patrols in the area of the Otter Tail River, due to the weather and the abundance of people out enjoying the river."

There were a few arrests made during the 24-hour July 4 period, as well as between midnight and 6 a.m. on July 5, Glander said.

"Last year there were 22 people booked into the jail between midnight on July 4 and 6 a.m. on July 5," he said. "This year we had a total of 24 people booked into our jail during that same time period."

Of those 24 arrests, 10 were for driving while intoxicated, he added, noting that he was including those brought in not only by his own deputies, but by the Minnesota State Patrol and local police department officers as well.

"We had six arrests related to the Fourth of July," said Chief Todd, adding that one was narcotics related and three others were for DWI, with one of the DWI's involving a hit and run, and another with a stolen vehicle. There was one trespassing-related arrest as well, he said.

Todd added that the Police Bike Patrol was on duty throughout the holiday. "It was popular and effective," he said. "We will definitely continue using bikes during these events in future."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454