ISABELLA, Minn. — Fire officials at the U.S. Forest Service-Superior National Forest now say that the aggressively-burning Greenwood wildfire started with a lightning strike.
The revelation was made in a post Thursday on the USFS Facebook page.
Firefighting crews will be increasing "dramatically" in coming days as the fire continues to spread across this remote area of northeast Minnesota, fueled by gusting winds and extreme weather conditions that are elevating fire danger.
The Greenwood Fire covers nearly 4,750 acres as of Friday morning. It has been pushed north in the past few days by southerly winds gusting in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 miles per hour. Currently 145 firefighters are on the ground, supported by at least 25 fire rigs, three water tenders, two bulldozers and three water dropping aircrafts.
Temperatures climbed to 90 degress Thursday with low humidity, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is listing fire danger in the region near Isabella as "very high. The behavior of the fire is "active," and a USFS spokesperson says peak activity and the most intense conditions have occurred around 3 or 4 p.m. in recent days.
Fire incident public information officer Pat York told KARE 11 that a "hand" firefighting crew of 20 arrived from Georgia Wednesday, along with a fire attack crew of 20 from Colorado and a "hotshots" crew of 20 from South Dakota. Hotshots are highly trained, mobile firefighters that can handle any aspect of managing fire incidents.
York says fire engine companies are arriving as well, and more personnel is on order to handle the challenges of the Greenwood Fire in coming days.
Operations Section Chief Pete Glover says crews will surround and attack the fire from all directions Wednesday. Firefighters on the south end, near Greenwood Lake about 15 miles southwest of Isabella, are working to securing an "anchor point" using heavy equipment to create a barrier to stop the wildfire should winds change.
On the east side of the Greenwood Fire, which is a more remote setting, firefighters from Division Bravo are scouting and looking for access points to get personnel and equipment in. Limited resources are being allocated in this area.
The north side of the burn reaches up near Stoney Lake and McDougal Lake, an area that has more development, buildings and homes. Personnel from the U.S. Fire Marshal's Office are taking steps to protect structures and keep them from burning if the wildfire advances.
Gilekson says at this point it appears no buildings or homes have been lost.
Crews from Division Zulu are using Highway 2 to access the burn zone from the west, moving heavy equipment in to battle the fire.
Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters will work the north end of the fire, scooping water from local lakes and dropping it to limit fire spread.
The Red Cross has set up a shelter operation at the Finland Community Center to assist and house those who have been evacuated from their homes. USFS officials say a public meeting will be held Thursday night at 6:00 pm at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Center in Finland to bring local residents up to date on firefighting efforts.
Fire officials said Tuesday they expect it to be seven to 10 days before the Greenwood Fire is brought under control. Cooler weather and a chance of rain this weekend could help in those efforts.
Meanwhile, fire officials say a new wildfire near Britt, Minnesota was detected Wednesday afternoon. The Moose Lake Fire is estimated at 25 acres in size and is located in the Lake Leander area.
The U.S. Forest Service for Superior National Forest said "seven different aircraft, heavy equipment and engines" are on scene to fight this new wildfire. Officials have already ordered additional resources.