Menahga fire 0 percent contained, several buildings lost
By Anna Erickson
Forum News Service
PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- Firefighters are working to contain a wildfire that is now between 3,000 and 4,000 acres in north-central Minnesota as of this morning.
Officials are now calling it the Green Valley Fire. It started at about 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon southwest of Park Rapids near Menahga and quickly spread due to high winds.
Ron Sanow, public information officer with the Department of Natural Resources, said containment is zero at this point.
“I would expect that we will see some containment figures later this evening,” he said. “This is not typical for Minnesota ground fires. It’s big. There’s a lot of residences. We’re going to be here longer. It might be a week before you see many of these trucks and yellow shirts leave the scene.”
The weather today is predicted to be in the mid-70s with humidity in the 30s. Winds are supposed to be from the northwest at 10-15 mph.
“That’s a better scenario than yesterday,” Sanow said. “If we hold it today, it’s a very good sign and it makes holding it tomorrow that much better. By the weekend, we’re looking at some rain and we’ll hopefully get a lot of rain.”
Several structures were lost.
“Many, many saved but several structures were lost,” he said. “Driving down from Park Rapids, … there’s quite a number of footprints that indicate buildings were burned.
This morning, crews were working to create a dozer line, which is a fire line constructed by the front blade of a dozer.
“We have a dozer line around 99 percent of the fire. The priority is that last 1 percent,” Sanow said. “Our focus today is keeping it pinned right where it is. We’re hitting it with everything we hit it with yesterday plus we’ve added four more heavy dozers today.”
The governor has ordered in three National Guard helicopters, two Black Hawks with 600 gallon buckets and one aircraft with a 2,000 gallon bucket.
Sanow said that’s like dropping two fire department tankers every time they pull the trigger on the bucket.
It’ll be a far more organized effort and a safer effort out there today, he said.
“We did not experience any injuries and we’re very thankful for that and we’re hoping today that the operations go just as smoothly,” he added.
The public is advised that it’s not safe to be out there looking around. There is a road closure on Wadena County Road 23 on the southeast side of the fire. The Twin Lakes area is also a priority point today.
Residents in Hubbard County are able to return to their homes but many residents near Menahga are still evacuated. Residents at Green Pine Acres have returned.
Sebeka School is the center for displaced residents. American Red Cross is set up at Menahga City Hall. Menahga and Sebeka schools are closed today.
A public meeting will be at 8 p.m. tonight at Menahga School.
“We’ll be presenting some of what’s going to happen, what did happen, how it’s going to go in a perfect world and also some of the services that are available to them,” Sanow said.
The origin is under investigation.
“Right now, the resources in the state of Minnesota are very, very taxed,” Sanow added. “Everyone needs to be very careful right now. Don’t even think about burning trash or leaves. It’s not worth it.
The website, mnics.org will have updates under the Green Valley Fire. It is a resource for media as well as the public.