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Cooler weather, rain showers aid crews working to contain Minnesota wildfires

Sep 06, 2021 05:21AM ● By Editor
Wildland firefighters construct a fire line to help contain the Greenwood Fire west of Isabella, Minn., this month.  Photo: Superior National Forest

From Minnesota Public Radio News - September 5, 2021

Fire crews working to contain wildfires burning in northeast Minnesota were aided by cool temperatures and scattered rain showers over the weekend.

As of Sunday the Greenwood Fire burning west of Isabella remained at just over 26,000 acres and 37 percent contained.

“Thanks to favorable weather and fire efforts, the threat to cabins, homes, and recreational sites in the area is greatly diminished,” according to a Sunday update from the team managing the fire. 

Crews working on the north and west perimeter of the fire on Saturday "began hauling out fire hose and other equipment, as the threat to structures was reduced," officials said Sunday.

Meanwhile efforts to build fire lines on the south and east sides of the fire continue. And crews were watching for gusty winds in the forecast.

More than 400 firefighters are working on the fire.

The lightning-caused Greenwood Fire has burned 14 homes and cabins and several dozen other structures since it was first spotted Aug. 15. 

While some residents along and near Lake County Highway 2 have been allowed through checkpoints to visit their properties, about 200 homes and cabins remain evacuated due to the fire. 

Lake County officials sent out an update Sunday stating that additional "security pass cards" will be issued to primary residential homeowners along State Highway 1 in the Isabella restricted fire area starting Monday, and to seasonal cabin owners along Highway 1 on Wednesday. The McDougal Lake area will remain closed for now.

BWCA fires

Meanwhile the two largest fires burning within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness also remained quiet over the weekend.

The John Ek Fire is about 1,350 acres, and the nearby Whelp Fire is about 50 acres. Both were zero percent contained as of Sunday.

Crews working on the John Ek Fire "have made substantial progress on contingency lines the last few days, widening and clearing portages and setting up sprinkler systems," officials reported Sunday. 

Similar work is being done near the Whelp fire. The efforts are aimed at creating defensible lines in case the fires spread.

“With stronger, gusty winds, some creeping and surface spread in exposed dry marsh grasses is possible, but no significant fire movement is anticipated,” fire officials reported Sunday.

Parts of the BWCA and the Superior National Forest closest to the fires, including along the upper Gunflint Trail, remain closed to visitors. 

But most of the wilderness reopened to visitors this weekendafter being closed for two weeks.

To read the original post and see related stories, follow this link to the MPR News website.  

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