By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz is deploying more than a dozen members of the Minnesota National Guard to help fight a rapidly growing wildfire in northern Minnesota.

The Greenwood Fire was first detected Sunday. The U.S. Forest Service says it’s moving very quickly because of strong winds and dry vegetation. Officials estimate it’s already burned more than a thousand acres.

The National Guard is sending two helicopters to drop water in the area of Warroad, along with fuel trucks to help support the DNR’s response. The soldiers will provide support until those fires have been contained.

More than 1,800 wildfires have so far charred more than 37,000 acres across Minnesota — or nearly 60 square miles.

Between the high winds, brown grass, and Smokey the Bear, Bemidji’s Forestry Office displays all the signs of a bone-dry summer.

“We’re kind of in unchartered territory right now,” forester and fire team leader Ben Lang, of the Department of Natural Resources, said.

Usually at this point of the season, Lang said, there would be very little activity, with spring wildfire season long over by now — put to rest by rain that, this year, never came.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re at right around 6.5 inches of rain right now. Usually by now we’re 18 to 20 inches of rain. Typically, in the Bemidji area we get 25 inches for the year, so we’re way short of where we’re at,” Lang said.

The conditions have led to 120 wildfires in the area where dry timber and grassland spark in seconds. Drone 4 captured the remains from one recent fire that scorched some seven acres in the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest, scars from one of thousands of wildfires fires across the state this year.

Michael Mackey is center manager for the Minnesota Interagency Coordination Center in Grand Rapids, where COVID safeguards are again keeping visitors out of the building. On Zoom, he told WCCO about how a staff of fewer than 10 people support fire agencies with equipment, aircraft and personnel. Where they would typically see one wildfire start across the state every day, there’s no signs anything is slowing down now.

“We’re probably right now averaging half a dozen two dozen starts a day,” he said. “We’re going to see quite a few more starts here and see that number increase as we get into the fall.”

Wisconsin firefighters were also called in to help.

Interested in more stories like this one? Join us for the online premiere of our new CBS film, Bring Your Own Brigade, streaming on CBSN Minnesota on Aug.  20, 2021.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/bring-your-own-brigade-official-trailer/

 

Liz Collin