12 homes destroyed in northern Minn. wildfire

6:19 AM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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MENAHGA, Minn. - By noon Wednesday, the Green Valley Fire north of Menahga had consumed more than 7,000 acres.

Twelve residences, two commercial properties and 41 outbuildings were destroyed, but by nightfall a line around the hot zone had been established and crews reported 25 percent containment, meaning one-quarter of the area shouldn't see any more of those minor flare ups. 

"We had a good day today. We probably had as good a day as we could have hoped for. We had some winds that test our lines," Ron Sanow with the DNR said.

Fire behavior for Thursday was expected to be "minimal" as crews expect half the wind they witnessed on Wednesday.

It was good news for Kristi Mitchell, who lives just outside the zone.

"Last night I didn't sleep at all. I sat and watched the fire line last night," Mitchell said after a well-attended community meeting at Menahga school. "You just don't know exactly where everything's coming from, so it's really good to come in here and hear from the people who are actually out there fighting."

The fire started on Tuesday afternoon and kept crews busy through Wednesday afternoon.

"Our concern is the wind is a north wind. We will pin this thing down and not (let it) get any closer to Menagha," Sanow said.

By 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the winds had kicked back up and the DNR planes were scooping water out of Blueberry Lake at a furious pace.

Pam Hjermstad watched from her deck. She had been evacuated from her home Tuesday night and returned early Wednesday.

"We were so relieved. We just collapsed in each other's arms," she said, after discovering the fire had been stopped about 15 yards from her front door.

By Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Fix was ready to collapse. He had been battling hotspots on his property for 20 hours. He says the fire came across the valley quickly.

"I got my kids out of here and my grandkids out of here and I came back and the house was on fire and the 4-wheel drive was on fire. But I lost everything else, just like that. I couldn't control it.  I would have died burning. My face was so hot," he said recalling the moment he faced the fire head-on.

Fix lost two barns and a half a dozen vehicles. As the winds kicked up Wednesday afternoon, DNR choppers and planes were dropping water all around him.

"It is chaos. It just keeps right on going," he said.

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