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4,000-acre northern Minnesota wildfire is 90 percent contained

A fire that broke out Sunday evening northwest of Greenbush, Minn., had burned about 4,000 acres of grass and brushland habitat. Fire departments from Lancaster, Hallock, Lake Bronson and Greenbush, along with teams from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, have been working to control the fire. (Photo/ Shawn Olsen, Minnesota DNR)

GREENBUSH, Minn.—A fire that broke out Sunday night in western Roseau County in far northern Minnesota was 90 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, officials say.

Known as the "County Road 7 Fire," the wildfire burned about 4,000 acres of mostly grass and swampland habitat north of Roseau County Road 7 about 15 miles northwest of Greenbush, Minn., said Christi Powers, an information officer for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Aerial estimates on Monday afternoon had put the damage as high as 5,800 acres, but thick smoke prevented firefighters from getting an accurate tally of the acreage burned, Powers said. Ground crews later estimated the size of the fire at 3,800 to 4,000 acres, she said.

Fire departments from Greenbush, Lancaster, Lake Bronson and Karlstad, Minn., assisted Minnesota Department of Natural Resources crews in battling the blaze, and 45 to 50 personnel were on the ground during the peak of firefighting efforts, Powers said.

Tanker planes, heli-tankers and numerous tracked vehicles all were deployed to fight the fire, she said.

The area got "a shot" of rain overnight, about two-tenths of an inch, but diminishing winds Monday night were the biggest contributor to containing the fire, Powers said said. Efforts now have shifted from firefighting to patrolling for hotspots and securing the perimeter of the fire area.

Aerial crews will continue to assist ground crews in detecting any new fires in the burn area, Powers said. Investigators were onsite Tuesday, but the cause of the fire hasn't been determined, she said.

While spring burning restrictions are in effect across northwest Minnesota, a cold front moving through the state has reduced fire danger from "very high" to "moderate" in much of the state, and the short-term weather forecast looks favorable for keeping new fires to a minimum, Powers said.

"The fire behavior analyst told us we're looking at less (fire) activity in the next 36 to 48 hours," Powers said Tuesday morning. "That can change because we're then looking at a warm front coming through, and that can bring with it wind and warmer temperatures that dry out the fuels."

The County Road 7 Fire is the largest fire of the year to date in Minnesota, and the largest since the 2015 Palsburg Fire, which burned 4,558 acres in Beltrami Island State Forest, Powers said.

Last year, by comparison, a total of 1,007 wildfires burned 5,328 acres in Minnesota, she said.

"They were small fires—nothing that reached the magnitude of the County Road 7 Fire," Powers said.

More information on statewide fire danger and burning restrictions is available on the Minnesota DNR website at mndnr.gov.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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