Wildfires popped up repeatedly across Minnesota's northland Thursday, as strong winds and dry conditions plagued much of the state.
The Duluth News Tribune reports none of the blazes were large, and they were generally confined to grassy areas – but there were dozens of small ones, leaving local firefighters and DNR responders scrambling.
What caused it?
Higher temperatures than normal, combined with little moisture, plus wind. A lot of wind. The Duluth News Tribune says gusts of 71 mph, 59 mph and 51 mph were recorded Thursday afternoon. Those high winds can blow sparks to areas susceptible to burning.
And it wasn't just a northern Minnesota problem.
KSTP says the Twin Cities area saw a couple reported grass fires, in New Brighton and Ramsey; plus a blaze that destroyed a barn near Elk River.
Through April 1, there had been 309 wildfires in Minnesota, burning a total of 2,362 acres, the DNR says.
National Guard activated
To help deal with wildfires, Gov. Mark Dayton activated the Minnesota National Guard late Thursday afternoon.
That means two Blackhawk helicopters, each with 660-gallon water buckets, will be used to help combat the blazes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will decide where those go, and how to best use them in firefighting efforts.
Fire danger still high
The DNR describes the fire danger rating in the northernmost strip of the state as very high (see the map at left).
There's a pocket of "extreme" risk in the central region, and basically the entire remaining lands are classified as "high" risk.