Firefighters continue to patrol wildfires along Highway 61 north of Silver Bay, Minn.

Grand Rapids, Minn., April 4, 2021 – Wildland fire crews from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and six local fire departments responded to multiple wildfires along Minnesota Scenic Highway 61 east of Illgen City, Minn., yesterday afternoon. The multiple fires have burned an estimated 45 acres, and the cause of the fires are under investigation.

Several aircraft, including air tankers and helicopters, provided water and fire retardant drops to help cool and slow down the wildfires. Aircraft helps support the firefighting crews working hard on the ground to suppress the wildfires.

Highway 61 was closed in both directions from Silver Bay, Minn., to Illgen City, Minn. The highway was closed due to smoky conditions and aircraft activity supporting the fire, including dipping for water out of Lake Superior.

Residents in the area and motorists traveling along Highway 61 today can expect to see wildland firefighting crews in the area mopping up lingering fire hotspots. The public is reminded to slow down and follow all state and local laws that protect emergency responders working along roadways to ensure the safety of the firefighters working in the area.

Fire crews will patrol and assess conditions throughout the day. While it is not expected that fix-wing aircraft will be called back to the fires, helicopters may be brought in to help crews cool down hot spots.

“Every spring, we see a rise in wildfire activity as the snowpack melts and leaves behind dry vegetation like grasses, leaves, and needles,” said Leanne Langeberg, Public Information Officer with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. “We left last fall in abnormally dry conditions in Northeast Minnesota. Snow totals were less than normal, and lack of measurable precipitation has left us in a persistent dry pattern.”

It only takes one spark for a wildfire to start and spread. These conditions will remain with us until we receive measurable precipitation and vegetation reaches full green-up. Residents and visitors in northeast Minnesota are reminded to use caution this spring wildfire season. Dragging chains from vehicles, tossing cigarette butts out of vehicle windows, even simply parking along roadsides on dry vegetation can all create a spark that can quickly become a wildfire.

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  • Contact: Leanne Langeberg, Public Information Officer
  • 218-244-1911
  • leanne.langeberg@state.mn.us