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Walz green lights National Guard to help fight Minnesota wildfires

A large fire was detected and spread rapidly in Lake County Sunday afternoon.
Greenwood wildfire

The Greenwood Fire as it burned in Superior National Forest on Sunday, Aug. 15. 

Soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard will help respond to wildfires burning in northern Minnesota. 

The Greenwood Fire erupted Sunday afternoon near Greenwood Lake in Superior National Forest and quickly burned several hundred acres, with the U.S. Forest Service saying late Sunday night that the fire was "moving very quickly due to strong gusts of wind and dry vegetation." 

Monday's forecast in the Northland calls for hot and sunny conditions with a southwest wind gusting up to 20 mph, the Duluth office of the National Weather Service says. In fact, hot, breezy and dry conditions are expected through Thursday. 

“This summer, Minnesota has experienced abnormally high temperatures and a historic drought resulting in dry conditions conducive to wildfires. I am grateful to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for their tireless efforts to combat wildfires in our state,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement.

“The Minnesota National Guard’s additional support will be critical to responding to these wildfires and protecting the safety of Minnesotans and their property. I am proud that our Service Members have again answered the call to serve their fellow Minnesotans.”

The Greenwood Fire prompted evacuations of residents and campers at nearby McDougal Lake as the fire raced to the northeast. An update on the fire's status Monday morning has not been provided. 

DJ Reichensperger provided Bring Me The News video (below) of planes flying near the smoke plume of the Greenwood Fire on Sunday. 

In addition to the Greenwood Fire are the John Elk and the Whelp fires, both of which were located Saturday in remote wilderness areas of the Tofte Ranger District within Superior National Forest. The Whelp Fire had burned approximately five acres as of Sunday night, while the John Elk Fire had burned two acres. 

No firefighting crews have been sent to those two fires due to difficult access, limited helicopter resources and safety concerns. 

Hundreds of wildfires have been fueled by extremely dry conditions this summer. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, areas of Polk and Beltrami counties in northwestern Minnesota have experienced the driest year-to-date in 127 years of record-keeping. 

The latest drought update showed 42% of Minnesota in extreme or exceptional drought, with the exceptional drought hitting the state for the first time since drought levels were introduced in 1999. 

Earlier in August, the Minnesota National Guard deployed 10 troops and a Blackhawk helicopter to provide medical support and air suppression at wildfires in Washington. 

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