DULUTH – The Superior National Forest fire in rural Lake County grew again late Wednesday afternoon, jumping to 4,000 acres from 3,200.
No part of the fire is under control, said Joanna Gilkeson, public information officer for the forest, and the fire is "moving fast."
A Wednesday night update said the fire is growing on the western side, and heavy equipment is being used to further protect cabins and other buildings in that direction.
Fire crews have largely been attacking the Greenwood fire from the air with water drops, but Wednesday they were building fire barriers on the south end and scouting for ways to access the fire from the ground on all sides, said Pete Glover, operation section chief with the Eastern Area Type 2 Incident Management Team.
The interagency team — which handles complex emergencies like major fires — took over operations Wednesday to free up forest officials for other fires. Homes and cabins in the Stony River Township and McDougal Lakes area are being prepped, should the roughly 6-square-mile fire progress farther north, officials said.
The fire began Sunday north of Greenwood Lake, about 15 miles southwest of Isabella. High winds and drought conditions have caused the fire to spread rapidly and have hampered fire crews' ability to stop it. More engines and crews arrived Wednesday to expand suppression efforts.
No new evacuation areas have been announced, but residences north of Sand Lake and west of County Road 2 may be evacuated if the fire hops the highway, Gilkeson said.
Duluth resident and outdoors writer Michael Furtman and his wife, Mary Jo, have a small cabin on Middle McDougal Lake, bought in September after searching for an affordable property for decades. On Wednesday the fire was less than a mile away, closer with how far sparks were jumping ahead, he said. He had a short time Monday to collect things that mattered: handmade spruce paddles, a trout creel his dad bought him when he was 14, some favorite boots.
"We're both on pins and needles trying to stay busy and positive, but everything looks like it's going the wrong way," he said, noting most of the properties in the area have been there for decades and are multigenerational retreats.
However, fire crews risking their lives to save buildings "would be a terrible price to pay," Furtman said.
Fire officials will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn., which will be livestreamed on Facebook.
The Superior National Forest announced more Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness closures Tuesday night related to the Whelp fire, about 4 miles west of Sawbill Lake. Quetico Provincial Park's backcountry is also closed as of Tuesday, mere days after the Canadian border opened to eager paddlers and others following more than a year of pandemic-related closure. Several fires continue to burn within the park. The Superior National Forest has canceled permits in the Crooked and Iron lakes closure area of the BWCA through Aug. 27 because of the proximity of Quetico fires.
Meanwhile, a new fire started Wednesday near Britt, Minn. The Moose Lake fire is about 25 acres and is near Lake Leander. Crews are working to suppress it, according to a Superior National Forest update.
While the Greenwood fire is among the biggest in Minnesota so far this year, the largest reported in 2021 is the Oxcart fire, which started in late March near Mentor, Minn., in the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. The grassland fire grew to nearly 13,000 acres.
Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450