NIMROD — A wildfire, apparently started by a vehicle driving through a grassy area, on Sunday and Monday burned more than 1,400 acres near Nimrod in Wadena County.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported gusty winds hampered firefighting efforts to stop the blaze, located about three miles south of Nimrod.
“With the winds yesterday, it went from a small spot to a large uncontrollable fire in a heartbeat,” said Ron Sanow, public information officer with the DNR.
On Monday, the National Guard was activated to assist the firefighting efforts. Two Black Hawk helicopters, with 660-gallon buckets, were dropping water on the fire Monday afternoon.
The fire, reported in the late afternoon on Easter Sunday, burned 1,400 acres but was no longer moving into new territory. The DNR reported firefighters were holding the fire within earthen fire breaks. Containing the fire within the breaks and putting out hot spots on the perimeter was an effort they expected to continue throughout the day and into the week.
“The plan that was implemented this morning seemed to be working,” Sanow said. “The wind is a challenge, but the lines seem to be holding.”
Even with cool — even cold — temperatures, the strong wind posed a challenge to firefighting efforts. The DNR reported a sustained crown fire was possible, to offset the benefit of the cooler weather which only reached the mid-30s by early afternoon. Temperatures were so cold water lines were temporarily frozen in the wildland fire fighting trucks. The weather, which has been unseasonably dry and warm this winter and spring, produced scattered flurries Monday.
The fire — called the Jeep fire as that vehicle was driving in the grassy area where the fire started — was initially reported about 4 p.m. Sunday by the Nimrod lookout tower. The report prompted immediate fire suppression efforts. About 60 firefighters using trucks, dozers, helicopters and water-scooping aircraft fought the fire. Evacuations were ordered Sunday to protect people in the fire’s path and to aid the safety of firefighters, the DNR reported.
On Sunday, firefighters aided by helicopter water drops worked to protect structures as dozer operators created earthen fire breaks on highland areas. ATV operators, equipped with on-board water, worked to put the fire out in lowland areas while fixed-wing aircraft dropped water on the flanks and head of the fire.
Sanow reported investigators are working to determine cause of the fire but the Jeep vehicle was close to the origin.
By Monday, fire crews were working to mop up anything smoking within 150 feet of the perimeter and extinguish fires in burning peat soils within the perimeter. Sanow said the containment of 80 percent referred to that percentage of the fire now within a mineral soil break while 20 percent of the fire was on marshy bog peat soils where firefighters have to extinguish each hot spot.
About a dozen households were evacuated with perhaps more people self-evacuating the area, but residents were back in their homes Sunday night when the burning intensity dropped.
Wind gusts reached 35 mph Sunday and were gusting about 20 mph Monday.