Timely Rain Keeps Forest Fire From Being Much Worse
TOWER, Minn. (AP) _ Two forest fires burned out of control for more than 24 hours, scorching 7,400 acres and at leveling least four homes before being slowed by a timely downpour.
″God was definitely smiling on this whole area,″ said Diane Bergan, who lost her garage and car to the fire but was glad to see her house still standing.
The fires were reported Sunday afternoon and weren’t confined until Monday evening, said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Jean Bergerson. They were expected to be under control by late today.
One of the fires near Tower in northeastern Minnesota destroyed 2,200 acres and the other 5,200 acres. About 1,000 buildings in the town were evacuated. Thirty-six structures were destroyed, including four homes.
Fire officials said an abrupt change in wind direction Sunday and heavy rains that continued through Monday helped slow the fires and provide time to evacuate residents and save buildings. No one was reported injured.
″The rain was a godsend,″ said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Wurdeman. ″It really knocked this thing down so the crews could go in and put a firebreak line around the fires.″
Gov. Arne Carlson was expected to tour the area today by helicopter and on the ground.
The area was unusually dry because of lack of rain and low relative humidity, said Mary LaPlant of the U.S. Forest Service. ″It was pretty tinderbox,″ she said.
The exact cause of the fires was not known. Early damage figures estimate the property loss at $250,000, Bergerson said.
″A lot more houses could or should have gone,″ said Bob Heisel, a district forester.