Crews of firefighters from around the region have responded to the calls for help up at the Greenwood Fire burning in the Superior National Forest since it was detected on Aug. 15.
Esko-Thomson Fire Chief Kyle Gustafson headed up to the scene with his first crew on Aug. 15. Crews from his department have been taking 12-hour night shifts from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
"We've had crews on every single night for a week," Gustafson said. "They've been looking for spot fires, watching fire conditions and they've seen some action on the really big days like last Friday and today [Monday, Aug. 23]."
Cloquet Area District Fire Chief Matt Ashmore said they received messages calling for available resources starting on Aug. 16.
"We sent a type one engine, which is a normal fire engine, with four personnel to assist that night," Ashmore said. "Since that time, we've been requested and have sent a type six engine, which is a brush truck, and two more personnel."
Gustafson said the crews have been doing a lot of structural work to help protect homes near the fireline.
"We're doing our best to help save as many structures as possible," Gustafson said. "Though, I don't know yet if we've been able to save the ones that were in the fire's path today."
On Monday, the Greenwood Fire more than doubled in size to 19,493 acres. Crews had done a lot of prep work around the houses in the path of the fire, but it was unclear as of the Pine Journal's deadline how many structures were damaged Monday.
This isn't the first time Gustafson and his crew have been deployed to assist in a large crisis. Gustafson remembers taking shifts to help fight the flames at the Ham Lake Fire in the Superior National Forest in 2007. That fire burned approximately 75,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of properties.
"We had crews up there for two weeks," Gustafson said. "And we've been sent to help Moorhead during their floods and to other areas. They're just few and far between."
In order to ensure that the fire departments don't leave their own areas unprotected, Gustafson said he's been coordinating with neighboring departments to stagger their crews.
"We're not sending all of our resources out of our area," Gustafson said. "We're still here to serve our communities and protect our areas in case anything were to happen."
Gustafson hadn't been back up to the fire since Aug. 15 when he spoke to the Pine Journal on Monday, but planned to head up again.
On that first day, he noticed how many people he knew from other departments who also responded to the fire.
"There are a ton of fire departments from our area who are up there right now. When I walked in the field, it was really nice to see all these familiar faces," Gustafson said. "We all end up in the same meetings and do a lot of mutual aid together for the region. It's really nice to work with people you actually know already."