MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz and senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar visited northern Minnesota Monday to survey the Greenwood fire.
The fire, which has been burning near Isabella in Lake County since Aug. 15, is now 26,000 acres, though its footprint has not grown in about a week. It’s been at 37% containment for several days now.
The governor and the senators got an update from Forest Service officials on the state of the fire, then spoke with firefighters who have been battling the blaze and surveyed the destruction.
“Just really grateful, really impressed at what’s been done,” Walz said. “Letting folks know this isn’t over yet, we’re about 40% contained, but we’re in a much better spot than we were just 10 days ago.”
The Greenwood fire has caused hundreds of people to evacuate, and destroyed more than a dozen cabins or homes and nearly 70 outbuildings. Firefighters hope to contain it by the end of the week, though it could continue to burn for months.
“I’m really struck by the places like this where this is just such deep damage and it’s gonna take a long time to grow back,” Smith said.
Klobuchar and Smith stressed during the survey that they would both be heading back to Washington to seek funding to be better prepared for future fires. Smith said that would include “significant resources to help suppress fires in the future” and money to ensure firefighters are “”paid a living wage and have benefits.”
“I actually feel really inspired,” Klobuchar said. “One, by the courage of the firefighters, how the businesses have hung in in a really hard time, first the pandemic, now this, but what we can actually do to help by getting the funding up here to help manage the forest.”
The John Ek and Whelp fires, which are burning northeast of the Greenwood fire in Cook County, are much smaller, but are 0% contained.
All three of the fires were started by lightning.