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Crews make progress in efforts to contain 2 wildfires in Lake of the Woods County

The “North Norris” and “Square” fires both are in Lake of the Woods County and covered 80 acres and 75 acres, respectively, as of Tuesday morning, according to an update from the Minnesota Incident Command System.

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A firefighter works to contain the "North Norris" fire north of Norris Camp in Beltrami Island State Forest on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, the day the fire was reported. (Contributed/ Minnesota Incident Command System)

Despite critical fire weather conditions that include warm temperatures and gusty south winds, crews are making headway in battling two fires burning north of Norris Camp in Beltrami Island State Forest and northwest of Graceton, Minn., south of Lake of the Woods.

The “North Norris” and “Square” fires both are in Lake of the Woods County and covered 80 acres and 75 acres, respectively, as of Tuesday morning, according to an update from the Minnesota Incident Command System.

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Locations of North Norris and Square fires in Lake of the Woods County. (Contributed/ Minnesota Incident Command System)

“Great progress continues to be made toward establishing control lines around the fires,” said Leanne Langeberg, MNICS public information officer.

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The North Norris fire was reported Saturday, Aug. 14, and the Square Fire started Sunday, Aug. 15.

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National Guard Blackhawk helicopters capable of holding 650 gallons of water per trip have been assigned to both fires to support suppression efforts, the update stated, and 85 personnel are onsite battling the two fires.

According to the MNICS update, ground crews and heavy equipment are constructing a containment line that will hold the Norris North fire within the perimeter. On the east side of the fire, crews are working to establish a hose line from the ditch along the Roosevelt Norris Road to provide water for mopping up smoldering hot spots. Aircraft will be brought in as needed to drop water on hotspots and active fire burning along the perimeter.

Similar efforts are underway with the Square Fire, where ground crews are mopping up smoldering stumps and cooling hot spots around the fire perimeter. Additional crews and equipment were scheduled to arrive Tuesday, and work will begin to run a hose line into the fire to provide water for cooling hotspots as construction of a containment line around the fire continues. Aircraft will be involved with Tuesday’s firefighting efforts, the MNICS update indicated.

Motorists traveling on state Highway 11 between Williams and Graceton should expect increased traffic as additional crews and equipment arrive, authorities said. Drivers should use caution on the Roosevelt and Faunce roads in Beltrami forest, where narrow gravel roads and increased fire traffic are resulting in low visibility and increased traffic hazards.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Red Lake Nation, the Williams (Minn.) Fire Department and Warroad (Minn.) EMS are cooperating on the firefighting efforts.

The DNR on Tuesday expanded burning restrictions in portions of central and northern Minnesota in response to the extreme wildfire conditions. Burning restrictions now cover 34 counties. The DNR wildland fire information webpage has the latest information on burning restrictions.

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Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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