Wildfire Spreading Rapidly Through Northern Minnesota, Locals Prepare to Evacuate


A still from an animated gif of the smoke spreading through Minnesota. Image: Central Regional Headquarters, NOAA

A wildfire has been steadily burning in the Boundary Waters region of Northern Minnesota since August 18, but is now spreading rapidly, covering 16 miles between Monday and Tuesday. The fire took the unexpected turn due to extreme wind and dry conditions, and officials expect it to burn for weeks. The Fire Spreads

The Boundary Waters, the lake and forest covered region on the border of Minnesota and Canada, is famed for its beauty and is a popular camping and canoeing site. But the quickly spreading fire has all but shut down the national parks there. It has already burned 100,000 acres of wilderness, and its effects are being felt beyond Minnesota.


The Minnesota Boundary Waters, famed for their beauty, are beset by a rapidly spreading wildfire. Photo: Steve Conry under a Creative Commons license.

Smoke can be smelled in Green Bay, in neighboring Wisconsin, and ash has spread hundreds of miles, reaching Chicago. Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of baseball's Brewers, had to close its roof on Tuesday night to keep smoke out of the stadium.

So far, no buildings have burned and no one has been hurt, but as the fire spreads, residents of nearby towns are preparing to evacuate. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has mobilized the National Guard to assist in firefighting efforts.

The Role of Climate Change

The unprecedented spread of the fire, started by a lightning strike, caught officials by surprise, the the Star Tribune reported:

Since the fire began Aug. 18, none of the forecast rain has materialized, and winds have been stronger than predicted, said Mark Van Every, U.S. Forest Service ranger from the Kawishiwi Ranger District. He said models indicated the fire had only a 0.2 percent probability of reaching its current size.

Like with the catastrophic ongoing wildfire that has decimated much of Texas, the role of climate change may be a decisive factor. Back in 2009, it was predicted that global warming would make some areas more prone to wildfires. Brian wrote about the Texas fires:

As human-induced climate change continues to progress, the conditions for such wildfires will only worsen in coming years. There will be less rain, more aridity, and higher temperatures -- parched conditions that will increasingly threaten the population of Texas and the Southwest.

It seems that the same is coming true for the upper Midwest.

Take a look at the animated gif showing the spread of smoke from the Central Regional Headquarters of NOAA and these stunning aerial photos of the fire from MPR News.

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More on wildfires:
Wildfires Cause Cooling in Arctic
Traditional Fire Management Helps Fight Climate Change
Global Warming or Not: The Debate Over California's Wildfires

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Minnesota | Natural Disasters