High Winds, Dry Conditions Spark Dozens of Wildfires
Fire Reaches Just Feet from Duluth Townhomes
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Fifty-mile-an-hour wind gusts and extremely dry conditions triggered a dangerous and active day Thursday as dozens of wild fires sparked up in the Northland.
Relentless, steady, and strong are just some words power companies used to describe the winds.
Downed trees on power lines caused widespread outages and sparked fires so fast that crews had a hard time keeping up.
Emergency dispatchers were flooded with reports of fires Thursday afternoon.
Most of Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin were in a “red flag warning” until Thursday evening.
The damage Mother Nature left behind will be seen for weeks to come.
“This started off an acre or two when we got here and got up somewhere close to ten,” explained Nate Eiting, a fire program forester with the Minnesota DNR.
Ten minutes is how long it took this fire to destroy ten acres just north of Cotton in a town called Central Lakes.
“Fire stayed on the ground for the most part here and got up into a few trees,” said Eiting.
In the first hour crews were on the scene more than five fires were reported within a 15 mile radius stretching DNR and local resources to the max.
“We’re thin,” said Eiting. “We’re using everything we have right now.”
“I wanted to see a jet and then I looked out our living room window,” explained six-year-old Alex Makkyla. “Then I saw a fire over there and told my mom.”
Flames ripped through an area off arrowhead road and feet from the Aspenwood Townhomes.
“I saw huge orange flames heading right towards our house,” said Aspenwood Townhome resident, Kathy Makkyla. “I told him to grab your shoes, coat, and let’s run out the door.”
On a windy day like Thursday, fire crews say the blaze can be unpredictable.
“These flames were huge like three feet tall in a wall of fire heading towards our house,” said Makkyla.
The Makkyla family knows they’re lucky it wasn’t worse.
“I never would have guessed we’d have a fire here today,” said Makkyla.
With widespread fires happening Thursday in the Arrowhead region, and devastating fires Wednesday in the central part of the state, Governor Mark Dayton has activated the Minnesota National Guard.
Crews are planning to use two Blackhawk helicopters with attached water buckets to help out wherever they’re needed.