Favorable weather, efforts of firefighters keep Greenwood Fire in check

Greenwood Fire in Lake County, Minnesota
A U.S. Forest Service vehicle drives past a roadblock as State Highway 1 near the Isabella Community Center in Isabella, Minn., was closed as the Greenwood Fire continued to burn Saturday.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Updated: 8:50 p.m.

Favorable weather conditions and the efforts of more than 300 firefighters kept the Greenwood Fire in northeast Minnesota from expanding on Saturday.

In fact, the fire's acreage was revised downward thanks to better mapping. Officials reported Sunday morning that it's now estimated at 8,862 acres — down from 9,067 acres the previous day.

And Clark McCreedy, a public information officer with the team managing the fire, told MPR News on Sunday morning that there have been no reports of injuries or structures lost to the fire.

Greenwood Fire in Lake County, Minnesota
A resident of Finland, Minn., placed this sign thanking fire crews along State Highway 1 on Saturday as the Greenwood Fire continued to burn northwest of the area.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Fire crews had been bracing for a possible jump in fire activity as a cold front brought erratic winds on Saturday — but instead they were aided by cooler temperatures, cloud cover and higher humidity.

"In spite of the fact that we got some pretty gusty winds yesterday, conditions were such that this fire did not move yesterday, which is great news for us," McCreedy said. "It's better news for our crews because they can get in there and really begin to hit this hard."

Patchy fog, cooler temperatures and lighter winds were again slowing fire activity on Sunday morning — though the region saw little if any rain this weekend and conditions remain very dry.

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Greenwood Fire in Lake County, Minnesota
A pink ribbon with the words "Escape Route" flutters in the wind Saturday at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 11 north of Two Harbors, Minn. Highway 2 north from the intersection was closed because of the Greenwood Fire.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

And officially the Greenwood Fire remains zero percent contained. McCreedy said crews continue to work on creating an “anchor point” on the south side of the fire, that they can use as a starting point to work up the east and west flanks of the fire. They’re also continuing to work on structure protection.

The dangerous fire conditions across northeast Minnesota prompted the Superior National Forest on Saturday to close the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to all visitors for at least a week.

The Greenwood Fire was sparked by lightning and first detected a week ago, on Aug. 15 about 40 miles north of Two Harbors, Minn.

It's forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and cabins — many in the McDougal Lake area near State Highway 1. More homes and cabins were evacuated on Friday after the fire jumped Lake County Highway 2 and made a 4-mile run to the northwest.

Those evacuation orders remained in place on Sunday.

Greenwood Fire in Lake County, Minnesota
A sign outside the DNR Forestry office in Finland, Minn., reports very high fire danger on Saturday.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Additional fire crews and equipment were expected to arrive Sunday; the total number of firefighting personnel as of Sunday night was 385. Firefighters on the ground are being aided by water-dropping aircraft.

McCreedy said the fact no structures have been lost to this point is thanks to fire crews from around Minnesota and from other states working well together and responding quickly to changing conditions.

"This is a result of having plans already in place," he said. "It's a really good story in terms of community cooperation (and) pre-planning."

A public meeting on the Greenwood Fire and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness closure is planned for 6 p.m. Monday at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland, Minn. It'll be broadcast on the Superior National Forest's Facebook page.