Near Menahga, residents allowed to return to homes.
Updated: May 16, 2013 - 10:21 PM
Lighter winds Thursday helped firefighters make significant gains on a wildfire that burned 11 square miles in northwestern Minnesota. Meanwhile, rain in the forecast from Thursday night through Tuesday is expected to reduce fire-prone conditions across the entire state.
The Green Valley fire destroyed 12 residences, two commercial properties and 41 other structures near Menahga. It was 65 percent contained as of Thursday evening, said Jean Goad, spokeswoman for the Interagency Fire Center.
About 170 people who had been ordered out of their homes had returned Thursday, Goad said. All roads had been opened, as well.
Near Red Lake, the 6-square-mile Buffalo Ranch fire and the 2.5-square-mile River Road fire were both 80 percent contained Thursday. But the River Road fire had burned into peat below the ground, which can smolder and burst into surface flame for months to come.
Altogether, about 160 people were fighting the Green Valley fire Thursday, including crews for six helicopters and three water-dropping planes. But the number of aircraft were being reduced on the Green Valley fire and called off other, smaller fires around the state, Goad said.
The Green Valley blaze started on private land during hot, windy weather Tuesday afternoon, about two miles northwest of Menahga, and burned a path about eight miles long and 1.5 miles wide through the area. Crews built a bulldozer line around most of the fire perimeter Wednesday while helicopters from the Minnesota National Guard and planes from other agencies dropped water on hot spots. Firefighters from more than 40 departments across the region helped on the ground.
The cause remained under investigation. No injuries had been reported.
The 12-square-mile Germann Road fire, near Solon Springs, was caused by logging equipment in the area, but no negligence was involved, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The fire was 100 percent contained Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646
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