Red-flag warning: Don't burnA fire near Deer River is contained but still dangerous. Another fire is burning in Canosia Township near Duluth.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
It’s warm, dry and windy across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and fire officials are saying today’s conditions are explosive for wildfires to burn out of control.
A red-flag warning has been issued for all of northern Minnesota for this afternoon and early evening with gusty northwest winds and tinder dry conditions pushing the danger for wildfires into the rarely-used extreme range.
A fire that started southeast of Deer River on Thursday and threatened several developed areas grew to 115 acres but was contained and is no longer growing, said Cynthia Sage, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Inter-Agency Fire Center in Grand Rapids.
More than 30 firefighters, three large airplanes and two helicopters worked on the fire Thursday into today, Sage said. The fire burned in grass, ash, cedar and balsams “and it was so dry that the balsams were crowing out" with intense flames, Sage said. While crews remain on the fire to make sure it doesn’t spread, Sage said strong winds could fan it back to life.
The fire was near a railroad track just off County Highway 11 between Deer River and Grand Rapids. It was the largest of dozens of wildfires across the state Thursday, with dozens more expected today.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources crews and local fire departments were working on another fire on Ugstad Road in Canosia Township just outside Duluth this morning. It was unclear how big the fire was or if any buildings were threatened.
“It’s going to be a very challenging day today," Sage said.
A red flag warning means that any fires that start today could immediately blow out of control, and fire officials are asking everyone to be careful with fire and smoking. North-northwest winds are blowing steady at 25 mph with gusts over 35 mph reported at Duluth International Airport, with extremely dry humidity levels.
A brush-fire ban remains in effect across the region, and campfires are allowed only in backyards or designated campfires and only in official fire grates with fires kept small.
The Northland remains far below normal for spring rainfall, and warm, sunny days combined with wind mean fires are likely now until heavy rain falls or until new grass and leaves emerge. The red-flag warning is in effect until 8 p.m. today.