Crews fight weekend wildfires along Minnesota North Shore highway

After closing down a portion of Minnesota 61 north of Silver Bay on Saturday due to multiple wildfires, wildland fire crews from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources continued to patrol for wildfires along the North Shore of Lake Superior or Sunday.

Residents and motorists traveling along Highway 61 can expect to continue to see crews dousing lingering fire hotspots, according to a news release from the DNR. It’s not expected that planes will be called back in to fight the fires; however, helicopters may be brought in to help ground crews.

On Saturday, multiple fires burned an estimated 45 acres. Several aircraft were called in to slow down the wildfires. Six local fire departments worked on the ground to suppress the wildfires. The cause of the fires remains under investigation.

According to Leanne Langeberg, public information officer for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center, the fire activity is not surprising.

“Every spring, we see a rise in wildfire activity as the snowpack melts and leaves behind dry vegetation like grasses, leaves and needles,” Langeberg said. “We left last fall in abnormally dry conditions in northeast Minnesota. Snow totals were less than normal, and lack of measurable precipitation has left us in a persistent dry pattern.”

The DNR also urged caution as fire conditions remain high. Dragging chains from vehicles, tossing cigarette butts out of windows and parking along roadsides on dry vegetation can create a spark that can become a wildfire.

Last week, crews also fought wildfires in northwestern Minnesota.

This week is expected to bring relief from the heightened fire conditions, with much of Minnesota forecast to receive soaking rainfall.

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