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Crews, aircraft still battling Skibo fire

DULUTH, Minn. -- A week of intense fire danger across the Northland should wither in coming days with forecast rain and cooler temperatures and the inevitable spring greenup of trees, grass and brush.

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A firefighting helicopter flies over the Skibo fire near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., on May 7. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service

DULUTH, Minn. -- A week of intense fire danger across the Northland should wither in coming days with forecast rain and cooler temperatures and the inevitable spring greenup of trees, grass and brush.

The National Weather Service in Duluth is forecasting a good chance of rain Tuesday night into Thursday for far northern Minnesota, and a chance of rain or even snow by the weekend.

Until then, however, the dry, warm and windy spell over the past week is credited with fanning multiple small fires into major problems, including the Skibo fire near Hoyt Lakes that was still drawing attention Monday.

Multiple new fires started Monday, including one near Makinen that drew attention from multiple agencies. Several of the new fires required air attack with water-dropping aircraft but none were considered significant as of Monday afternoon, said Jean Goad, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center.

The Skibo fire, which started Friday afternoon along railroad tracks, apparently by sparks from a passing train, was spread out along eight miles. By Monday the blaze had drawn nearly 150 firefighters from a dozen states, along with multiple aircraft and 13 fire engines from state and federal agencies as well as local volunteer fire departments.

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The fire, a few miles east of Hoyt Lakes in the Superior National Forest, had burned across more than 1,000 acres in two distinct areas and was 21 percent contained, but had not burned any buildings and no injuries were reported as of Monday afternoon, fire officials said.

Some families remain evacuated as a precaution and County Roads 565 and 569 remain closed east of Hoyt Lakes. Superior National Forest Roads 120, 420, 795, and part of 113 also are closed.

Also on Monday crews were getting the upper hand on the 257-acre Hut Two fire near Finland and the 250-acre Taylor Road fire near Embarrass which was 95 percent contained with 96 firefighters on the scene. Neither fire is expected to grow.

April and early May are traditionally Minnesota's busiest wildfire season, before the new growth turns green and with the previous year's grass dead and ready to burn. So far this spring there have been 964 wildfires in the forested portion of Minnesota burning across more than 7,325 acres.

Related Topics: FIRESCROPS
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