Remembering the monster wildfires of Minnesota's history

Recent, large wildfires in Minnesota are nowhere near the size of these monsters.
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The intense wildfire that torched land in Roseau County just 10 days ago is a good reminder that Minnesota is no stranger to dangerous fires. 

At 4,000 acres, the fire near Juneberry Township ranks as the largest wildfire Minnesota since April 2015, when the Palsburg Fire burned down 4,550 acres of land in Beltrami Island State Forest, south of Warroad.

Even so, both of these blazes pale in comparison to the ferocious fires of the past. 

These are the 10 largest wildfires in Minnesota since 1894, according to the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. 

1. Red Lake Fire – 994,000 acres

This blaze started on Sep. 11, 1931 and was nicknamed the "Dust Bowl Fire."

It stretched from Red Lake all the way to the Canadian border. 

2. Cloquet-Moose Lake Fire – 960,000 acres

The most devastating fire in Minnesota history burned 1,500 square miles, claiming the lives of 453 people and destroying 36 towns and villages, including Cloquet, a town of 8,000 people at the time, according to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). 

Eighty-five others were badly burned and 2,100 more were injured. The MHS says records show that more than 52,000 people were displaced by the 1918 fire. 

It destroyed 4,089 homes, 6,366 barns and 41 school buildings. 

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3. Hinckley Fire – 350,000 acres

The Sept. 1, 1894 fire killed 418 people and devastated the towns Hinckley, Brook Park, Sandstone, Pokegama and Mission Creek.

According to the Hinckley Fire Museum, people as far away as Iowa thought the fire was close. 

4. Baudette-Spooner Fire – 300,000 acres

This blaze burned town the towns of Baudette and Spooner on Oct. 7, 1910.

Forty-two people died. 

5. Pagami Creek Fire – 92,682 acres

This fire in in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was started by a lightning strike in mid-August 2011, and it slowly burned undetected, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

By Sept. 9 it had grown to 4,500 acres, and the driest fall in 140 years helped it spread rapidly the next four days, growing to nearly 93,000 acres by Sept. 13.

And just outside the top five...

Just outside the top five is another recent wildfire, the Ham Lake Fire of May 5, 2007. 

A campfire created the monster that destroyed 75,000 acres of land in the Superior National Forest. It burned for a full week before firefighters were able to get it contained. 

According to the National Weather Service, it was the costliest wildfire ($11 million) dating back to the Cloquet fire of 1918. It was later passed by the Pagami Creek Fire.

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Minnesota still below average for wildfires

Minnesota officials have counted 997 wildfires in the state this year, surpassing 2011 by about 300 fires. But the average for the state is a little more than 1,500 wildfires, and in some years in recent decades Minnesota has had as many as 3,000 blazes.