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Ely firefighters catch break from weather

More than an inch of overnight rain helped firefighters make significant progress Sunday toward extinguishing a wildfire that earlier had threatened the city of Ely.

Firefighters
Firefighters were staged near the fire in case they were needed Thursday, May 17, 2012, near Ely. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

More than an inch of overnight rain helped firefighters make significant progress Sunday toward extinguishing a wildfire that earlier had threatened the city of Ely.

Authorities opened Minnesota Highway 1 on Sunday morning for the first time since the blaze began about 1:45 p.m. Thursday, when sparks from a downed power line ignited surrounding dry vegetation. The fire quickly spread, fanned by winds gusting to 35 mph.

Jean Bergerson, a fire information officer, said in light of the improved outlook, a number of fire resources would be demobilized Sunday. On Saturday, 127 people were working the fire, but she expects that number will be reduced to about 50 people by this morning.

Bulldozers were being sent in to smooth out a fire line that was rapidly established Thursday to stop the fast-moving fire from entering Ely. Bergerson said the area probably would be reseeded where soils allow in order to reduce the risk of erosion.

Although cloudy, rainy conditions were not conducive to flying Sunday morning, Bergerson said that when the weather clears, a helicopter crew would begin to conduct aerial surveillance of the 175-acre fire scene with an infrared scanner to detect and target any remaining hot spots.

Related Topics: ELYFIRESWEATHER
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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