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July 25, 2014

Heat sparks wildfires, forces evacuations; 10,000 acres burn in two days

A one-day heat wave that pushed temperatures into the triple digits in southern Minnesota also contributed to wildfires that burned thousands of acres in the northland, forcing evacuations in some communities.

KSTP reports a fire burning near Park Rapids is forcing evacuations of homes along Hubbard County Road 14.

WCCO says a separate fire that’s burned at least 30 acres near Menahga in Wadena County is threatening structures there. The DNR is using water-scooping planes to fight the blaze, but is reportedly having difficulty with lingering ice on the lakes making it hard to collect much water.

Meanwhile, Duluth residents saw plumes of smoke from a wildfire that’s forced evacuations in northwestern Wisconsin. WDIO reports 3,500 acres in Douglas County, Wisc., have burned. The evacuations are around Rock Lake and Beauregard Lake, the station says.

All of this is in addition to a big blaze burning in the Red Lake area. According to Northland’s News Center, that fire has burned 6,000 acres on Lower Red Lake. Gov. Dayton on Monday authorized the use of National Guard helicopters to fight it.

The rash of wildfires is prompted by the dangerous combination of high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds together with the dry brush that the recent snowmelt exposed. A fire supervisor with the Minnesota DNR tells KARE-11 there have been more than 100 fires statewide in the last two days, which have burned nearly 10,000 acres.

About 90 percent of Minnesota is under a fire warning and the DNR has imposed burning restrictions in many counties.

Even if you weren’t near a wildfire, Tuesday was a scorcher that torched records for May 14th. The Pioneer Press reports St. James and Amboy reached the high mercury mark of 102 degrees. Minneapolis reached 98. Other cities that broke records include Mankato, Albert Lea, and Owatonna at 99.

Forecasters say the big heat was a one-day blast, though, with highs likely to stay in the 70′s for the rest of the week.