DULUTH – Northern Minnesota's Greenwood fire was 80% contained Friday, as the Superior National Forest lifted fire restrictions for the entire forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
A Friday flight over the fire showed standing water from the few inches of rain that fell over the drought-stricken area in recent weeks, said Val Cervenka, a spokeswoman for the team managing the fire.
While the region remains historically dry, officials don't expect the fire — which no longer shows any flames — to spread, she said. However, some of its perimeter is astride inaccessible wetlands, making it likely full containment won't come until snow falls, she added.
Last week crews continued to find and dig out hot spots along the fire's edge and remove fallen or standing dead trees, including in the hard-hit McDougal Lakes area. Some of the uncontained sections in heavily forested areas were giving crews trouble, said Jim Grant, an operation section chief with the fire's previous incident management team, at a public meeting Sept. 12 in Finland, Minn. (Each incident management team works a two-week stint, and a new one took over Tuesday.)
A stretch of the fire's southern border near Greenwood Lake is reachable only by boat or via a 4-mile trek on a snowmobile trail, for example, and some remote areas have no room to land a helicopter in an emergency.
The fire, which started five weeks ago, continues to smolder in ash pits buried within peat bogs, said Patrick Johnson, a fire behavior analyst for the Greenwood fire and a Superior National Forest employee.
"We can't find them all no matter how much effort we put into it," he said at the meeting.
Work last week included sorting salvageable wood and fixing damaged roads.
Evacuation orders for the roughly 40 residences within the McDougal Lakes area were lifted over the weekend, as the Lake County Sheriff's Office issued security passes to those property owners.
The Superior National Forest is allowing campfires in designated grates in the BWCA and at rustic and backcountry campsites in other parts of the national forest.
Be sure to fully extinguish campfires before leaving them unattended, said Chase Marshall, the U.S. Forest Service's fire management officer, in a news release Friday.
"While the window for fire risk is closing, it's not entirely shut," he said.
Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450