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Busy spring fire season for Corps crews

While major fires around the country dominate headlines, Conservation Corps crews have been busy with fires close to home. A dry fall and nearly snowless winter resulted in 96 percent of the state suffering severe drought conditions as we headed into spring, which is typically the busiest part of Minnesota’s fire season. These dry conditions meant an early and busy spring season for crews, who were called out to assist with suppression and mop up on a number of fires. As of early May, after several significant rain events, only 10 percent of the state remained under severe drought.

Conservation Corps crews are carefully trained in fire suppression and prescribed burning before they begin field work, and they work in close partnership with DNR Forestry. Some fires crews have worked on this spring include:

Jeep Fire. In April, three crews were called out to help contain and mop up the Jeep Fire, which began as a Jeep drove over tinder-dry ground and burned 1,600 acres around Nimrod, Minn. St. Paul Roving, Tower and Ottertail crews worked alongside five fire departments, paramedics, EMTs, smoke chasers and even the National Guard with two Blackhawk helicopters, to mop up the fire and to monitor and extinguish flare-ups.

Photo: Field crews from St. Paul, Tower and Ottertail were called out on Easter Sunday to help fight the Jeep Fire in Nimrod, Minn. for most of a week.

Hwy 1 Fire. The Highway 1 fire started from a downed power line in mid-May, and burned 175 acres just south of downtown Ely. The fast-spreading fire required more than 125 people over two days to bring it to 60 percent containment, and parts of the town of Ely were evacuated. The Tower crew was called out for four days, arriving to find Ely choked with smoke. They worked with the USFS and volunteer firefighters during a couple of 14-hour days, laying hose and lateral lines within 150 feet of the fire’s edge. See photos on our Facebook page.

Holy Carp Fire. Northwoods, Fergus Falls and Camden crews called out in mid-May for 14-day stints to mop up the Holy Carp Fire in the Baudette/Warroad area. The Fergus crew was then sent to the Northwest Angle to do surveys of homes to determine their vulnerability to wildfire.

Plantation Fire. Gooseberry crew worked this fire in Grand Marais.