STACY (AP) -- Firefighters tried Friday to contain a brush fire on the west side of Interstate 35 and keep it away from the small towns of Stacy and Wyoming about 30 miles north of Minneapolis.
At dawn Friday, a small fleet of six aircraft began bombing the six-mile-long eastern flank of the blaze with thousands of gallons of water. The two airplanes and four helicopters were grounded by darkness Thursday night.
The fire started Thursday afternoon on private property near the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, said Dave Schuller, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
He said the fire has burned at least 4,000 acres and destroyed three homes. Other reports put the burning overnight Friday at 6,000 acres and four homes, with about 30 homes threatened. The fire was about 20 percent contained.
Early Friday morning, authorities evacuated about 1,500 people from a mobile home park west of the interstate, then allowed them to return a few hours later.
Schuller said wind gusts up to 20 mph at the end of a dry summer made conditions ripe for an explosive fire Thursday. Friday's forecast was for gusty conditions, with highs in the upper 60s.
Soils were near drought conditions and the fall foliage was dessicated. Authorities said they are worried the same conditions will fan the fire today.
Lee Casto, volunteer with Chisago County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, was on the scene Friday morning at a gas station in Wyoming near the burn area, helping authorities with communications backup. He also found himself answering questions from people displaced by the fire.
"The biggest thing that they wanted to know is, 'Is it my house?"' Casto said. "Unfortunately, I didn't have that kind of information."
Pat Anderson waited at the same gas station for information on her home, which she was ordered to evacuate Thursday afternoon. She left, but her boyfriend stayed with the house. He told Anderson the fire had devastated trees near their house, but only melted some aluminum siding on an auxiliary garage.
"He said the fire just jumped from one side of the road to another, and whoosh!" Anderson said.
In a separate fire Thursday in Eagan, firefighters took two hours to control a blaze that devastated an apartment complex as winds gusted to 40 miles per hour.
"I just said I have never seen a fire on a structure move that quickly as I saw today," said Eagan Police Chief Kent Therkelseno on Thursday.
The Red Cross provided food and clothing for families affected by the Eagan fire and set up a shelter in St. John's Lutheran Church in Stacy, for families affected by the Linwood Township fire.
Another shelter opened Friday at the American Red Cross in east Bethel, on Viking Boulevard. The Red Cross is assisting people with food, clothing and medical supplies.
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