More than 30 acres within the Chippewa National Forest burned Thursday, April 25, as high winds and dry conditions fueled a forest fire.
A state reconnaissance aircraft deployed during fire season discovered the blaze while patrolling an area south of the forest, said Mike Klick, zone fire management officer with Chippewa National Forest, during a phone interview. Firefighters responded to an area near 24th Avenue, northeast of Longville, and found flames spreading quickly with the aid of 20 mph winds.
"This was one of the first fires of the season and a rather significant one," Klick said.
Klick said the fire-the third within the Chippewa National Forest this year-burned primarily through forest leaf litter and did not threaten structures, although it affected an area equivalent to about 23 football fields. The fire was diverted from lowland and swampy areas, still holding moisture and even snow, Klick said. In total, 31.75 acres burned.
During the primary attack on the blaze, the Forest Service requested mutual aid from the Longville Fire Department when the fire ignited a large woodpile. In total, Forest Service firefighters spent three days battling the fire, although it was contained after the first. The following two days were spent monitoring hot spots and preventing further spread by wind.
A U.S. Forest Service investigator determined the fire was human-caused, although there was no definitive answer as to how the flames ignited.
Despite wet weather in the week's forecast, the fire season likely isn't over, Klick said.
"To have wet spells or even snow in the middle of it isn't uncommon," he said. "With the moisture and the temperatures, I could see things starting to green up, but even then we still anticipate the fire season after this. ... Fire season can last all the way into summer."
The Chippewa National Forest was the first national forest established east of the Mississippi River in 1908 and is home to more lakes and wetlands than any other national forest, according to its website. The forest includes about 1.6 million acres, with over 660,000 acres managed by the Chippewa National Forest. The remaining lands are state, county, tribal and private. The Leech Lake Indian Reservation is also within the forest boundary.