The crew fighting the Greenwood Fire in northern Minnesota made an unusual request to supporters Monday: Stop giving them donations.
The Eastern Area Incident Management Team, which has been battling the blaze since shortly after it started Aug. 15, has been inundated with items from people who want to show their support. That includes countless bottles of sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, snack items and bottled water, Information Officer Clark McCreedy told Bring Me The News.
But the team now has too many of these kind donations — "multiple truckloads," McCreedy said, filling whatever storage trailers they have.
"And, we probably have filled a semi-trailer full of materials," he continued, on top of all the similar items the crew already had on-site.
It's reached the point where the Incident Management Team doesn't have anywhere to safely store the items. Instead, they're sitting on pallets out in the open.
Now, black bears are noticing and coming by to help themselves.
"Pre-packaging is, to be frank, an inadequate means to prevent bears (or animals like raccoons) from detecting, finding, helping themselves to these sorts of items," McCreedy said.
This poses a danger to crew members (particularly logistics team members, McCreedy said) who are trying to focus on fighting a nearly 26,000-acre wildfire amid ongoing drought conditions. The fire is currently 14% contained.
In a Facebook post Monday, U.S. Forest Service-Superior National Forest explains there have been two incidents of bear-related damage already. Teams on the ground "are now in the business of mitigating bear damage and minimizing the hazard to our staff on the Greenwood Fire," the post continued.
The Incident Management Team, while saying it appreciates the steadfast support, explains in the post it will not be taking any more donations for the time-being.
"We understand the genuine concern, and undeniable generosity of community members," the post says, "but we need to be able to return the focus of our logistics staff to supporting the Greenwood Fire and our fire fighters, and we can no longer accept any donations."
They're asking people who were considering donating to instead look at other organizations in need, such as food banks or local volunteer fire departments.
And those who still want to do something for the firefighting crews still have an option.
"We love signs along the road and cards," the post concludes.