GRAND RAPIDS – Firefighters brought scores of wildfires under control across Minnesota on Thursday after blazes in parched forests and grasslands destroyed several homes and threatened to ignite the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Calmer winds aided the firefighting effort in the drought-stricken North Woods area. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blazes, supported by tanker trucks and planes dumping fire retardant.
“Most areas throughout the state are in a high fire danger and fires can start from most any cause and they can spread rapidly,” said Patti Hines of the Minnesota Interagency Fire Centre, based in Grand Rapids.
Authorities feared that a 1,200-acre (486 hectares) fire that erupted near Orr, Minnesota, would reach tinder provided by the million trees blown down in a July 4, 1999, windstorm in the Boundary Waters wilderness area, the famed camping and canoeing park that covers roughly a million acres (400,000 hectares) in northeastern Minnesota.
But the winds eased on Thursday and firefighters backed by planes and helicopters – some on loan from neighbouring Canada – gained control of the Orr blaze and roughly two dozen others across the state, Hines said.
In the central Minnesota town of Princeton, a grass fire that spread to a pine forest destroyed four homes and damaged eight others on Wednesday before it was put out. No one was hurt and officials were investigating the cause of the 300-acre (121.4 hectares) blaze.
Abnormally low rainfall last autumn, a lack of snow in the winter and unusually high temperatures this spring have combined to cause hundreds of fires in Minnesota, scorching more than 28,000 acres (11,330 hectares).