Wildfire prompts evacuations in NW Minnesota townKARLSTAD — Wildfires forced the mandatory evacuation of the south side of Karlstad Tuesday afternoon.
By: Kevin Bonham/Grand Forks Herald, Worthington Daily Globe
KARLSTAD — Wildfires forced the mandatory evacuation of the south side of Karlstad Tuesday afternoon.
Some buildings, which were believed to be unoccupied, were on fire at about 3:30 p.m., according to the Kittson County Sheriff’s Department.
The wildfires in the region were fueled by strong southerly winds that topped 40 mph Tuesday afternoon.
A large wildfire has been burning southwest of Karlstad since Sunday. It was reported to cover about 500 acres earlier Tuesday.
Local volunteer fire departments from Karlstad and all of Kittson County were dispatched to the Karlstad scene.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota National Guard joined the battle Tuesday to control the series of wildfires that have been burning since the weekend in the region.
Two Blackhawk helicopters and at least a dozen Guardsmen were dispatched to Thief River Falls, upon the directive issued by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The main target was a 700-acre fire, known as the Minnie Fire near Fourtown. The fire was about two miles long and about one-half-mile wide Tuesday morning and access had been difficult, according to the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center.
It’s one of several weekend fires that still were burning Tuesday in what is considered the Wannaska Complex of northwest Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service extended its red flag fire warning to cover both western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota through Tuesday, as winds that topped 40-mph and relative humidity levels of 20 percent or lower turned the region into a tinderbox.
In addition, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources continued mop-up operations on two of four fires that were still burning Tuesday morning west of Middle River.
* East Park, a 150-acre fire in which firefighting efforts have been hampered by burning peat pockets, according to Jean Bergerson, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources public information officer who is part of the incident command system. Firefighters have been able to extinguish only about five acres per day, using heavy equipment to dig out and turn the peat.
* West Lincoln, a 15-acre fire in which mop-up work was under way Tuesday in a hardwood forest area.
* Richardville, a 980-acre fire north of Lancaster. While most of the fire was located in Manitoba, one residence and four outbuildings were destroyed Monday.
* Juneberry, a small area of peat, the site of a fire that initially was reported in August.
Besides the National Guard, the state has been aided by the use of aerial water scoopers to drop water and other fire suppressants from the air from Manitoba and Ontario, according to a report Tuesday.
Local volunteer fire departments also have been assisting.
Forum Communications Co. owns the Grand Forks Herald and the Daily Globe.