Superior National Forest officials Sunday night reported a fast-moving wildfire north of Greenwood Lake, or about 15 miles south of Isabella in Lake County.
The fire was detected at about 3 p.m. but had already spread to several hundred acres by nightfall with a smoke plume visible for many miles.
Forest Service and other wildfire personnel were on the scene attacking the fire on the ground and using aircraft to dump fire retardant and water on the fire.
The blaze apparently started just north of Greenwood Lake, and just east of Lake County Highway 2, said Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson. Johnson said the apparent cause was a power line blown down in strong winds and sparking on the ground.
The fire was being pushed by strong southwest winds that gusted to 30 mph in the area Sunday afternoon. Winds had calmed to just 7 mph by Sunday night but were expected to gust to over 20 mph from the south on Monday, likely rekindling the fire and pushing it north.
Residents, cabin owners and campers in the McDougal chain of lakes area were told they should leave either Sunday night or early Monday with the fire heading their way, Johnson told the News Tribune. Some people have already packed up and left, he noted.
“If it keeps going, and picks up again Monday as they think it might, that’s where it’s going,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to know how many people were up in that area and tell them they should think about getting out of there either tonight or early Monday.”
Forest Service officials have closed the campground and boat landing on McDougal Lake until further notice, said Joanna Gilkeson, public affairs specialist for the Superior National Forest.
"The Forest Service, the Minnesota DNR and Lake County notified residents in the McDougal Lake area that they may need to evacuate and asked them to prepare. It is a preevacuation,'' Gilkeson.
The fire is just the latest of dozens this summer across Northeastern Minnesota, which remains parched after months of drought conditions, although this is among the first wildfires to threaten populated areas. Strong winds, hot sunshine and low humidity levels on Sunday were the perfect recipe for any fire to spread quickly as this one did, and the National Weather Service in Duluth had issued a fire weather notice on Sunday.
Hot, dry and breezy conditions are forecast through Wednesday.