ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has activated the state's National Guard to help battle the wildfires dotting various areas of northern Minnesota.
Walz made the announcement Sunday, Aug. 15, as wildfires continue to burn in northeastern Minnesota in the Superior National Forest, where people are being urged to evacuate their homes. The quick-spreading fire there is believed to have been started around 3 p.m. Sunday, with it gaining significant ground by nightfall.
Firefighters are also battling two wildfires that started over the weekend in Lake of the Woods County, authorities say.
According to Adam Munstenteiger, Northwest Region forestry manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, the “North Norris Camp Fire” was reported Saturday afternoon, Aug. 14, and is burning 1 to 2 miles north of Norris Camp in Beltrami Island State Forest about 20 miles southeast of Warroad, Minn., Munstenteiger said.
The fire is estimated at 80 acres and is actively burning in heavy timber and brush, according to a situation update from the Minnesota Incident Command System. Norris Camp is headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area.
A second fire, dubbed the “Square Fire,” is burning about 60 acres of black spruce and boggy terrain about 3 miles northwest of Graceton, Minn., the MNICS report stated.
Both fires are listed as 0% contained, and about 60 personnel are onsite fighting the two fires, according to the MNICS report. Both fires remain under investigation.
The weather is complicating firefighting efforts, with Monday temperatures from 92 degrees to 97 degrees predicted, along with low humidity and 10 to 15 mph southwest winds gusting to 30 mph.
“The conditions are explosive,” Munstenteiger said. “This will be a difficult week given the hot windy forecast on top of severe drought across the state. Anything we can do to prevent fires is so critical.”
The Minnesota DNR, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Red Lake Nation, Williams (Minn.) Fire Department and Warroad Emergency Management Services are cooperating agencies in the firefighting efforts.
“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,” Walz said in a news release. “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 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the State Emergency Operations Center, and partners at Minnesota Interagency Fire Center, including the US Forest Service, will continue to work to control wildfires in Northern Minnesota.
(Reporter Brad Dokken contributed to this report.)