Crews battling new, 'rapidly growing' wildfire in northeastern Minnesota

Smoke rises from a fast-moving wildfire
Smoke rises from a fast-moving wildfire near Greenwood Lake, about 30 miles north of Two Harbors, Minn., on Sunday.
Superior National Forest

Updated: 10:30 p.m.

Crews were battling a new, “rapidly growing” wildfire Sunday night in northeastern Minnesota, as gusty winds and very low humidity brought another round of dangerous fire conditions to the region.

Superior National Forest officials said the fire — estimated at “several hundred acres” in size — was spotted at about 3 p.m. Sunday near Greenwood Lake, about 35 miles north of Two Harbors or about 15 miles southwest of Isabella. Federal, state and county firefighting crews were battling the flames on the ground and from the air.

“It is rapidly growing and spreading due to high winds and dry vegetation and has the potential to impact structures and recreation assets,” the Forest Service reported in an update just before 10 p.m. Sunday.

It was threatening to spread toward the McDougal Lake area near Minnesota Highway 1.

The Forest Service said its staff, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Lake County, “notified residents in the McDougal Lake area that they may need to evacuate and asked them to prepare. It is a pre-evacuation at this time.”

The Superior National Forest has closed its recreation facilities at McDougal Lake, including a campground, boat ramp, picnic area and trail. All visitors were cleared from the area on Sunday, the Forest Service said.

There was no immediate word on a possible cause of the fire.

Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday night issued a statement saying he's "authorized Minnesota National Guard support for wildfire response in northern Minnesota" — though the statement did not directly reference the latest fire near Greenwood Lake.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service said a large closure of the western Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, imposed nearly a month ago due to the risk of wildfires, will remain in effect at least through Friday.

And crews were able to contain two other wildfires sparked last week by illegal campfires.

Forest Service officials said one of the campfire-sparked wildfires was discovered Thursday on an island in Lake Clara, north of Lutsen. It burned about 1.5 acres.

Another, about a tenth of an acre, was found Thursday near Homestead Lake east of Isabella.

A campfire ban remains in effect for all of the Superior National Forest — and all of Cook and Lake counties — amid the ongoing drought conditions.

In an update Saturday, the Forest Service said crews have been monitoring at least a half-dozen other fires across the national forest in recent days, most of them small and now contained.

A BWCA closure order remains in place north of Ely because of concerns about wildfires burning just north of the Canadian border, in Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park.

That closure area stretches east nearly to Basswood Lake, west nearly to Crane Lake and south to the Echo Trail.

The three large fires in Quetico closest to the border, combined, have burned more than 15,000 acres.

The Quetico fires have been active in recent days, the Forest Service said this weekend. U.S. crews are monitoring those fires from the air.

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