MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The last of the wildfire evacuees in Northern Minnesota were allowed back this weekend. They're beginning to clean up what's left of their properties.
It's been more than five weeks since a lightning strike charred more than 25,000 acres in the Superior National Forest. The Greenwood Fire is now 80% contained and may stay that way for months.
After being kept away for 35 days, Jeff and Brenda Solomon are finally back home. Their property is one of two dozen to suffer damage in the McDougal Lake Area, where flames from the Greenwood fire destroyed 14 cabins or homes.
"We only have about one-third of the wood area that we used to have that wasn't damaged," Jeff Solomon said. "Every time we drive in, we have to go past the neighbors that weren't as fortunate as we are."
They are hauling away the burnt brush and will rebuild the deck and wood shop they lost.
From fire headquarters there's relief rain started to fall every few days -- a now 80% containment line may inch forward just slightly and stay that way.
"It's increased the fuel moisture, so things aren't burning as readily, so it's helped tremendously," incident commander Jim Edgar said. "We're not going to go to 100% containment. We're not going to have a line around the whole fire because of remoteness and difficulty and hazards in reaching some of the areas."
Edgar says fire will likely burn near the soil for months to come.
"There will be areas that have heat and fire probably until after the snow falls, unless we have a really, really wet fall," he said.
Concerns will now turn to cleanup and awareness of unstable trees and a changing landscape. But for the Solomons, they are grateful to those who got them this far -- the firefighters, loggers, family, and friends who made sure they had a place to stay before tackling what's ahead.
"Feels good to not just be sitting and waiting but moving forward," Jeff Solomon said.
Many residents up north have been asking how to keep this from happening again. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages property owners to follow its "firewise program." Making vegetation and structural changes will help.
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