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Greenwood Fire: Officials get firsthand look at damage to human structures

It was safe enough for emergency personnel to assess the McDougal Lake area this week.

Officials are finally getting an opportunity to assess some of the damage to human structures caused by the Greenwood Fire.

Members of the U.S. Forest Service and Lake County Sheriff's Office were able to take a look at the McDougal Lake area Tuesday, the sheriff's office said. They found 12 primary structures and 57 outbuildings destroyed, described as a "total loss." Three other primary structures had "minor" damage.

An evacuation order remains in effect for McDougal Lake, which includes a 323-acre campground and numerous recreational areas.

"Firefighters remain in that area to protect the remaining structures," the sheriff's office said, adding it is "still an active fire area" and "not safe for property owners to return to their property" at this point.

The Greenwood Fire, first detected 11 days ago and believed to be caused by lightning, is now 25,991 acres, according to Minnesota Incident Command System's (MNICS) Thursday update. That's an increase from 21,720 acres the day prior, but not the type of dramatic jump seen on some previous days.

Here's a look at its current footprint:

Officials credited cloud cover, lower temps and an increase in humidity with helping keep a lid on the fire's spread Wednesday. Firefighting crews have identified holding lines on the western and southern edge. Weather conditions should again be favorable Thursday, with crews working to remove "burnable natural fuels" located near human structures or along the fire's edge, MNICS said.

Related: Boundary Waters closure extended through Sept. 3 amid wildfire danger

The Greenwood Fire remains 0% contained at this point. It's the largest wildfire in Minnesota since the Wannaska Complex fires torched 32,239 acres in 2012.

The Greenwood Fire is one of 11 active wildfires in the Superior National Forest. The most severe at this point are the Greenwood, John Ek and Whelp fires. The others include: 

  • Petit Fire
  • Gabi Fire
  • Clara Island Fire
  • Rice Bay Fire
  • Second Creek Fire
  • Steep Fire
  • Moose Lake Fire
  • Fourtown Lake Fire

Northeast Minnesota has been dealing with poor air quality for much of the past week, but easterly winds will begin to push wildfire smoke away from Lake Superior Thursday, and into the Iron Range through Friday evening.

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