MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Wildfire officials in northeast Minnesota warned on Monday of a new threat: bears attracted by generous donations of food and other supplies.
“The donations have far exceeded our needs and our ability to store what we have received,” Superior National Forest officials said in a social media update. “We have run out of storage space and donations now have to be stored in the open on pallets, which makes them attractive to bears. We have already had two cases of bear damage. “
Black bears are common in northern Minnesota and rarely attack people, but conflict can arise when attracted to food. Officials said they appreciated donations, but simply couldn’t accept any more.
“We understand the real concern and undeniable generosity of community members, but we need to be able to refocus our logistics staff on supporting Greenwood Fire and our firefighters,” they said. Instead, they suggested donating to local food banks and fire departments, “or thanking a firefighter.” We love the signs along the road and the maps.
Forest Service crews have been battling the Greenwood Lake fire since it was spotted on August 15, about 15 miles southwest of the town of Isabella. It has burned over 40 square miles (over 105 square kilometers) but has slowed down in recent days. The area received 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 centimeters) of much needed rain from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning, the greater amount of rain in a 24-hour period than the area around the fire received all year round.
The fire destroyed 14 “primary structures” – mostly houses and cabins – and 57 outbuildings in a major operation last Monday. It was 14% contained on Monday with a lockdown date scheduled for September 10.
The Forest Service also reported no growth thanks to rain on two other smaller wildfires, the John Ek and Whelp fires, which are found inside the Boundary Waters Canoe wilderness. Crews have just started their efforts to tackle these ground fires, as they are deep in the wilderness in hard-to-reach areas. Fears the two fires will spread as firefighting resources have already been strained by the Lake Greenwood blaze and severe drought conditions led the Forest Service on August 21 to shut down all of the boundary waters until at least Friday.