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Smokey skies over NW Minnesota

5,000 acre fire whipped by high winds

KARLSTAD, Minn. | October 4, 2012

A wildfire that forced evacuations in northwestern Minnesota was contained Wednesday and people were allowed to return home, authorities said.

Seven Karlstad-area homes and 10 outbuildings were destroyed Tuesday by the nearly 5,000-acre fire that was whipped by winds up to 40 mph, but no injuries were reported, the Park Rapids Enterprise said. The fire had forced the evacuation of about half of the town of 800 people, and school was canceled Wednesday.

"Conditions are pretty stable. We hope they stay that way," Minnesota Fire Marshal Bruce Roed told the newspaper. "We got a handle on it just before nightfall.

"The head of the fire was aimed right for town," Roed said. "They [firefighters] basically split it. It went east a ways and then went north."

The blaze, referred to as the County 27 fire, was one of eight weekend fires that make up the nearly 10,000-acre Wannaska complex that sent smoke wafting hundreds of miles eastward across the state as far as Lake Vermilion. Other fires were burning near Fourtown, Goodridge, Greenbush, Lancaster, Middle River and Thief River Falls.

Rain and snow is forecast for Thursday and firefighters were hoping it would be heavy enough to knock down the flames.

"They say we'll maybe get 6 inches of snow," Roed said. "If that's the case, we might be done tonight. If not, it may be weeks."

Minnesota Public Radio reported the state National Guard was assisting in the firefighting efforts.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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