Crews continued to battle three Northland wildfires on Sunday, but persistent dry and windy conditions made the task an uphill battle.
The most significant fire - in the Skibo area, just east of Hoyt Lakes - stood at approximately 1,000 acres with 12 percent containment on Sunday afternoon, said Lisa Radosevich-Craig, who was on scene as a spokeswoman for the interagency team fighting the fire.
The acreage is double the size reported a day earlier, but Radosevich-Craig said the fire saw minimal growth from Saturday into Sunday. Instead, she said, improved mapping allowed for a more accurate estimate.
"Most of the burning was still interior of the firelines from the first day," she said. "But it's pushing some of the edges, so they're trying to get as much line around there as possible."
Temperatures were again hovering in the 60s on Sunday with extremely low humidity, but the winds had weakened a bit from Saturday, when gusts were recorded at 30 mph.
Radosevich-Craig said Tuesday figures to pose the biggest threat, when winds are expected to shift to the east. But firefighters hope to receive some much-needed relief on Wednesday, when rain showers are expected.
A National Weather Service meteorologist has been on the scene, providing regular updates to the team that has set up shop at the Hoyt Lakes Arena.
"By Wednesday, we should be in a much better place," Radosevich-Craig said. "Right now, it's just about keeping everything as contained as we can."
She said firefighters worked overnight Saturday and were expected to do so again Sunday. Several helicopters were involved in the air attack for a second day Sunday.
The fire was upgraded to a Type 2 incident on Saturday night, bringing in additional crews and support services - more than 300 people from 12 states are now involved.
Authorities said the fire was reported at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, with eight to 10 smaller fires along railroad tracks merging into several larger fires. The cause remains under investigation.
The fire on Friday forced the evacuation of two or three permanent residences and six to eight seasonal cabins east of Hoyt Lakes, but no structures have been lost. Several roads in the area remained closed to traffic on Sunday, and authorities were asking people to avoid the area to prevent interference with fire crews.
Embarrass and Finland
Crews also continued efforts to contain smaller wildfires burning near the Embarrass and Finland areas.
The Embarrass-area fire, along St. Louis County Highway 21 near Levander Road and the Pike River, was at about 250 acres and was 20 percent contained on Sunday afternoon, according to Jean Goad, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids.
The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office reported late Saturday that several homes were evacuated as personnel from 10 fire departments, the DNR and the Forest Service battled the fire amid the dry and windy conditions, but residents were able to return home by 8 p.m. No structures were lost.
Meanwhile, firefighters had made more progress with a fire burning in the vicinity of Hut Two Road off state Highway 1, two miles north of Finland. Goad said the blaze was at 160 acres but was 50 percent contained.
"The weather today is a little cooler, and the winds aren't as strong," she said Sunday. "But it's still so dry and there isn't much on the horizon for the next couple days."
Authorities reported a number of smaller grass fires around the region on Sunday, two days after the region's temperatures soared into the 90s, shattering records. At 3:23 p.m. Sunday, the Superior Fire Department responded to report of a grass fire at 2106 Central Avenue, where $10,000 worth of cedar logs and boards were destroyed, according to Battalion Chief Erik Sutton. No injuries were reported in that incident and the cause is under investigation.
Goad said an additional response team was withdrawing from a wildfire near Bemidji on Sunday and returning to be on stand-by at fire headquarters in Grand Rapids.