A handful of wildfires continued to burn Sunday in northern Minnesota, the largest of which has charred about 1,000 acres east of Hoyt Lakes in St. Louis County.
Dubbed the Skibo fire, the blaze was 12 percent contained as of 8 a.m. Sunday, according to the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS), a group of agencies that work together on wildfires and other critical incidents such as tornadoes.
More than 40 aircraft and 400 people from 14 states were fighting the wildfires in Minnesota under the auspices of MNICS, authorities said. On Sunday, the Skibo fire did not threaten any lives or structures, although three families had to stay out of their homes because they were “just too close,” a fire spokeswoman said.
Some of the aircraft are Type 1 tankers, which can hold 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, she said. On Saturday, two Blackhawk helicopters from the Minnesota National Guard joined the fight. There was talk of a Chinook helicopter being brought in, too, the spokeswoman said.
On Friday, the day the fire was reported, 18 residents of the Northland Village assisted-living center in Hoyt Lakes had to leave for several hours, authorities said. Winds that had been gusting at 30 or more miles per hour Friday and early Saturday had slowed to 10 to 12 mph by Sunday, although the warm weather, critically low humidity and little rain kept fire danger extremely high.
Although smoke continued to drift into Minnesota and Iowa from the huge wildfire burning in Canada, air quality levels across the state were good to moderate Sunday, the National Weather Service reported.
In the Twin Cities, rain is expected to start Monday and continue through Wednesday. In the north, rain is expected Tuesday, which should help with fire suppression efforts.
Several new fires were reported Saturday, including the Taylor Road fire near Embarrass, which as of Sunday had blackened 250 acres and was 20 percent contained. The Finland fire has burned 200 acres and is 20 percent contained.
The Lake Hattie fire near Park Rapids, was 100 percent contained by Sunday afternoon, said spokesman Ron Sanow. That fire burned for four days and charred 356 acres before MNICS turned it over to the Bemidji area forestry office, he said. There were no evacuations and no structures lost.
Crews will continue at the scene at least through Monday to monitor the fire, Sanow said.
“Contained” doesn’t mean the fire is out, he said. But officials are “really, really confident that it is not going to rekindle again.”
Sanow’s team was headed to the Grand Rapids office of the Interagency Fire Center by Sunday evening so they could be on alert to other fires.
Sanow, who has worked 42 years as a firefighter, said there have probably been hundreds of fires across the state.
When it is unusually hot, with especially low humidity and particularly gusty winds, “this is when we see the strange things,” he said.
“This is when we see cigarettes start fires, electric fences, road graders throwing a spark,” he said.
The causes of the fires are not known, but all are under investigation.