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Critical condition: Fires spark in dangerous weather

Several wildfires were reported in the Brainerd lakes area Sunday and Monday, including areas in Little Falls, Pillager and Emily. The National Weather Service in Duluth reported critical fire weather conditions for the counties of Aitkin, Cass a...

A Fire Boss aircraft lands Monday on Gull Lake, near Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, to scoop water while fighting a wildfire near Pillager Lake. Mike Kurilla / 3 Sevens Studio LLC
A Fire Boss aircraft lands Monday on Gull Lake, near Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, to scoop water while fighting a wildfire near Pillager Lake. Mike Kurilla / 3 Sevens Studio LLC

Several wildfires were reported in the Brainerd lakes area Sunday and Monday, including areas in Little Falls, Pillager and Emily.

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported critical fire weather conditions for the counties of Aitkin, Cass and Crow Wing, along with dry conditions combined with breezy southwest to west winds across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin with the potential to result in near-critical fire weather conditions. This means "the very dry vegetation combined with these weather conditions could cause any fires to spread easily."

Aircrafts to suppress fire from above were sent Monday afternoon to fight a wildfire near Pillager Lake, Christi Powers, public information officer with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center based in Grand Rapids, reported in a news release.

Although total affected acreage was unavailable late Monday, Powers said the Pillager Lake fire was one requiring multiple aircraft over several hours. Fire Boss airplanes were seen scooping water from Gull Lake as part of the air attack. No structures were damaged or threatened in the blaze, but weather conditions made fighting the fire difficult. Crews were responding to several fires at once Monday afternoon, Powers said.

According to the police scanner, a grass fire was also reported Monday afternoon on the 41000 block of Poplar Drive in Emily.

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At 2:48 p.m. Sunday, an air attack of an AA-6, four FireBoss aircrafts and a helicopter was dispatched to the "Grouse Fire," 3 miles north of Little Falls. The fire grew to 12 acres and threatened several structures, Powers reported. According to a helicopter crew member, the quick work of Minnesota Incident Command System aerial suppression efforts-to drop retardant near the buildings-saved them from damage. Shortly afterward, aircrafts were dispatched to the "Beauty Lake Fire," 50 miles northwest of Brainerd.

Over the weekend, MNICS crews responded to some 60 wildfires burning nearly 700 acres, Powers reported. To date, MNICS agencies report 661 wildfires for approximately 9,500 acres burned.

This week is National Arson Awareness Week. From 2009 to 2016, Minnesota had an average of 234 arson-related wildfires, with approximately 14,200 acres burned as a result of arson wildfires, MNICS reported.

The NWS stated if people plan to burn, they should consult local county officials for any burn restrictions that may be in effect, or simply consider not burning on days when critical fire weather conditions occur.

Relief from wildfires is expected to arrive Tuesday, May 8, as rain and thunderstorms are anticipated. The NWS reports thunderstorms are possible Tuesday and Wednesday over portions of the Northland, along and south of a line from the Brainerd lakes region to Hayward, Wis. The storms are not expected to be severe.

Related Topics: LITTLE FALLSPILLAGEREMILY
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