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Wildfire Near Menahga Now 65% Contained

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MENAHGA, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — Lighter winds Thursday helped firefighters better contain and snuff out the remaining hotspots from a wildfire that burned 7,100 acres in northwestern Minnesota.

The Green Valley Fire destroyed 12 residences, two commercial properties and 41 other structures near Menahga since it started on Tuesday. As of Thursday night, it was 65 percent contained, although there are still structures at risk, officials said.

Bradley Snyder, a Menahga resident, lost his home to the fire. Where his dining room once stood — with family pictures and memories  —  there’s now a pile of ash.

“My wedding pictures are in there, all my childhood pictures, [my wife's] pictures, all my daughter’s pictures, all the precious gifts you get over the years — they’re all gone,” Snyder said.

And because there’s no longer water on  Snyder’s property, he will also lose his horses — for a time. A friend of his from Rochester made the 260-mile drive up north to take Snyder’s horses. He’ll keep them until Snyder can figure out his next move.

“There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made,” he said. “We haven’t figured out what we are going to do yet.”

Ron Sanow, of the Minnesota Incident Command System, said crews are working inside the fire line to make sure the wildfire doesn’t spread.

“We absolutely don’t want to lose any more personal property,” Sanow said. “We’re organized, and it’s not [a] chaotic situation.”

Altogether, about 160 people were fighting the fire Thursday, including crews for six helicopters and three water-dropping planes.

The wildfire started on private land during hot, windy weather Tuesday afternoon, about two miles northwest of Menahga, and burned a path about eight miles long and 1.5 miles wide through the rural area. Crews built a bulldozer line around most of the fire perimeter Wednesday while helicopters from the Minnesota National Guard and planes from other agencies dropped water on hotspots from the air. Firefighters from more than 40 departments across the region helped on the ground.

The cause remained under investigation. No injuries had been reported.

Friday’s forecast looks to hold southeasterly winds blowing at 15 mph and a high of 70 degrees. Rain is also in the forecast. The fire’s behavior is expected to be minimal, with smoldering and a few flare-ups.

Crews will be using heat-sensing equipment in a helicopter Friday to search out remaining hotspots, weather permitting.  The scanning could continue Saturday, authorities say, if conditions allow. On the ground, firefighters will snuff out any detected hotspots and improve containment lines.

Crews will be working overnight Thursday.

All evacuations and road closures in the area have been lifted as of Thursday night.

How You Can Help

If you would like to help people affected by the fire, you can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief at www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.  The Red Cross is currently helping residents in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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