Large Wildfire in Minnesota Imperils Homes, Fouls Air in Region

The Greenwood fire in the Superior National Forest has burned more than 25,000 acres near the Canadian border since Aug. 15.,


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A large wildfire in drought-seared Minnesota threatens homes and recreation sites.

Smoke from the Greenwood fire near Pitcha Lake in Isabella, Minn., on Wednesday.
Smoke from the Greenwood fire near Pitcha Lake in Isabella, Minn., on Wednesday.Credit…Brian Peterson/Star Tribune, via Associated Press
  • Published Aug. 26, 2021Updated Aug. 27, 2021, 8:31 a.m. ET

A fast-moving wildfire in the parched woodlands of northeastern Minnesota continued to threaten cabins, homes and recreational sites on Friday as hundreds of firefighters fought to contain it.

The Greenwood fire, in the Superior National Forest not far from the Canadian border, has burned more than 25,000 acres since it began on Aug. 15, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire, which has not been contained, was started by lightning, the authorities said.

Evacuation orders are in effect for several areas, including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake, and areas along Highway 2 and north of Highway 1. The fire destroyed 12 primary structures, which include homes and cabins, and 57 outbuildings, which include garages or outhouses, earlier this week, the Lake County Sheriff’s office said. Crews used heavy machinery on Wednesday to build a fire line along the part of the fire to the west of Highway 2.

“Our hearts go out to any of you who lost your cabin or your home,” Connie Cummins, a forest supervisor, said at a news conference on Thursday.

She added that “there has been some really good progress made on the fire. We’re just looking very closely at prioritizing those lines that will provide the most protection.”

More than 475 people, including firefighters, logging groups and contractors, were battling the blaze, Brian Pisarek, an incident commander, said at the news conference.

The Greenwood fire and others in the region are causing air-quality problems across a wide area, according to the National Weather Service. An air quality alert was in effect through Friday evening.

“Some members of the general public may experience health effects,” the Weather Service said on Friday, adding that children, older adults and people with respiratory or cardiac issues should avoid all strenuous outdoor activities in the affected area.

Fires just across the border, in Quetico Provincial Park in Canada, also continue to burn with no containment and will contribute to smoky conditions.

The rain showers and thunderstorms that were expected to move into the region Friday will continue on and off throughout the weekend, the Weather Service said.

There was also a flash flood watch in effect for Friday. Flash flooding of creeks, streams, urban areas, and low lying areas was possible.

Though Minnesota is dotted with lakes, severe to exceptional drought conditions related to climate change have ravaged much of the state this summer, as they have in areas across the Northern Plains and Western United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought restrictions were imposed in parts of Minnesota last week, limiting or banning activities like lawn watering.

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