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Greenwood wildfire doubles in size to 2,000 acres; 75 homes evacuated

Highways are closed and people are being evacuated as the wildfire grows.
The Greenwood Fire on Monday. 

The Greenwood Fire on Monday. 

The Greenwood Fire in northeastern Minnesota has grown to more than 2,000 acres and has forced highways to close and the evacuation of about 75 homes and cabins.

The fire, located about 15 miles southwest of Isabella, Minnesota, was initially detected around 3 p.m. Sunday. Originally estimated to be a few hundred acres, the blaze grew swiftly amid the dry, windy conditions in the area. 

Monday afternoon, the fire was estimated at 1,000 acres and by Monday night, it was estimated at being 2,000 acres in size, the U.S. Forest Service said Monday evening.

"Fire behavior was observed to be extreme with torching and long-range spotting," the U.S. Forest Service said. Long-range spotting means there 'large glowing firebrands are carried high into the convection column and then fall out downwind beyond the main fire starting new fires," according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group

The blaze is "located outside of the wilderness area and threatens cabins, homes and recreational sites," which has prompted the evacuation of about 75 homes along McDougal Lake, the Highway 2 corridor near Sand Lake and just north of Highway 1. 

The Lake County Sheriff and Emergency Management went door-to-door to notify residents if they are in an evacuation area. If a residence was unoccupied, a notice was posted on their door. You can sign up for emergency text alerts and calls from the county here.

Meanwhile, officials have closed Highway 2 from Forest Highway 11 to Highway 1. And Highway 1 is closed from New Tomahawk Road to Lankinen Road. 

Crews used two helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft, eight engines, two dozers and two tracked vehicles to fight the blaze on Monday, with aircraft being used to limit the fire spread to the north, while full suppression tactics are being used to reduce fire spread. 

The Forest Service says an incident management team has been ordered, which allows for local firefighters to be available for any new fire that starts, as well as the initial attack. Additional resources have also been ordered, and they'll arrive throughout the week.

The Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) has reported 65 new wildfires over the past week, including three separate wildfires in northern Minnesota that required the support of two incident management teams (a MNICS Type 3 team is managing the North Norris and Square fires in Lake of the Woods; an Eastern Area Type 2 team is managing the Greenwood Fire).

The wildfires in Minnesota are being fueled by extremely dry conditions, which have prompted burning restrictions, mixed with warm temperatures, low humidity and winds, which has resulted in "longer response times that require more extensive mop-up efforts to contain" the fires than what is typically seen during traditional spring and fall wildfire season, MNICS said Monday. 

The conditions along with increased wildfire activity in Minnesota has prompted MNICS to move to a preparedness level of five (PL-5), which places priority on drawing in available support resources locally, regionally and nationally, as well as support from the Minnesota National Guard. 

Related [Aug. 16]: Walz green lights National Guard to help fight Minnesota wildfires

The U.S. Forest Service says fire activity in Canada was also very active on Monday, with a smoke column visible from the U.S. The fires there have pushed to the north, but are also backing toward the U.S., with officials noting the Superior National Forest continues to monitor those fires and communicate with Canada daily.

The Minnesota DNR's wildfire website is here

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