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1,600 acres burn south of Nimrod

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Strong northwest winds pushed a wildfire across about 1,600 acres starting late Easter Sunday afternoon south of Nimrod.

The number was upped from a previous estimate of 1,400 acres, not because the fire had burned more ground since Monday but because of a more accurate reading of the data, according to Ron Sanow, fire information officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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"The fire didn't go anywhere, didn't burn any more land, it's just we were able to dial in our mapping better," he said.

The fire was 100 percent contained by Tuesday afternoon between 2:30 and 4 p.m., and crews continued cleaning up the smoke on Wednesday, Sanow said.

Eight buildings were determined to be burned, according to the final press release and fact sheet sent out by the Incident Management Team on Thursday morning.

One residence with an attached garage was determined to be a total loss, along with three outbuildings associated with that home.

Other buidlings destroyed included a trailer being used as a hunting cabin, a portable camper, an outbuilding and an outhouse.

The fire was reported by the DNR lookout tower near Nimrod at 4:03 p.m. by Sandy Wierenga, according to Linda Lilly at the busy DNR Forestry Nimrod Field Station.

According to Sanow, the point the fire started was believed to be 1 mile west and 1 3/4 miles north of the intersections of County Roads 9 and 26.

No injuries with either the public or firefighters were reported as a result of the fire.

Sanow said that evacuations were necessary but that all residents were back in their homes by Sunday evening.

The Department of Natural Resources fought the fire using three helicopters and three CL 215 airplanes to fight the fire, which jumped County Road 26 and County Road 9 and burned into the edge of the Lyons State Forest.

The fire was driven by strong west-northwest winds with gusts up to 35 miles per hour.

Sanow said the fire's path of destruction was long and narrow, about four miles wide and half a mile long.

Most of the land burned was privately owned, and the fire killed trees and charred property owned by the Potlatch company.

The West Lyons Cemetery on the intersection of County Road 26 and County Road 9 was narrowly bypassed by the path of the fire.

The fire did start in proximity with a vehicle but exactly what started it is not yet known according to Sanow.

Even though the incident has been officially named "Jeep Wildfire," on Wednesday afternoon, Sanow said the matter is still under investigation and they could not say for sure that the Jeep was the cause of the fire.

"It's under investigation. It's a lengthy process, and that's the best that can be said about it," he said. "The Jeep was in proximity to the starting point."

Sanow said that the DNR office is asking the public to be mindful of anything they do outside that could create a heat source.

The public information fact sheet released April 11 said that while wind speeds were lower now, the probability of ignition was high especially in grasses.

Burning restrictions continue to be in effect.

Firemen from Wadena, Verndale, Staples, Sebeka and Menahga joined the DNR in fighting the fire.

Two National Guard Black Hawk helicopters joined the DNR air fleet Monday. The Black Hawks have buckets that can carry 600 gallons of water. DNR helicopters carry 125-150 gallons. The CL215 aircraft scooped water from both Blueberry and Stocking Lakes near Menahga.

The public information fact sheet said first day firefighting efforts were supported by 13 type 6 wildland engines, nine dozers of various sizes, five all terrain track vehicles, three water bucket equipped helicopters and three CL-215 water scooping aircraft.

According to the fact sheet, cooler temperatures and calmer winds on Tuesday helped firefighters achieve full containment. About 90 total personnel were working the fire.

Wadena County has had a history of wildfires. In April 1987, about 400 acres burned around Leaf River Township. The Huntersville fire of 1976, also spotted from the Nimrod fire tower, was one of Minnesota's biggest wildfires of all time and burned 23,000 acres.

As the Nimrod DNR station's parking lot was crowded Monday morning with fire trucks and other workers' vehicles, a Smokey the Bear sign at the entrance reminded people to "prevent forest fires."

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