Crews gain upper hand against Ely fire

ELY, Minn. (AP) — Authorities in Ely have lifted an evacuation order and say they've gained the upper hand against a wildfire that threatened the town.
Scott Camps, emergency services manager for the St. Louis County sheriff's department, says crews have switched to mopping up, though it will likely take a day or longer to douse all the hot spots. Rain is predicted for Saturday.

The Duluth News-Tribune reports the fire started about 1:45 p.m., apparently when a vehicle drove over a downed power line on Minnesota Highway 1 about one mile south of town. Southerly winds gusting to 35 mph then blew the fire rapidly toward town, expanding it to about 150 acres by Thursday evening as it burned pine trees and dry grass along the way.

The southeast corner of Ely was the closest to the fire, and parts of the city were ordered evacuated by Mayor Roger Skraba. Rides were offered for anyone who couldn’t leave on their own. The Ely Echo newspaper reports school superintendent Kim Belcastro notified parents of students who live south of town to find other temporary homes for the children in the Ely area. School buses and all other modes of transportation were not allowed on Hwys 1 and 2.

WELY-FM used its website to notify people of the evacuations and approaching fire but its radio station was off the air because of the power outage.

The U.S. Forest Service took the lead in the fight, which involved several agencies at its peak. City Clerk Terry Lowell says Ely Fire Department crews returned to their base early Thursday evening.