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BWCA Fire Hits 100,000 Acres; Strong Winds Continue

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ELY, Minn. (WCCO) – A fire that started from a lightning strike in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on Aug. 18 is now burning more than 100,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota.

Minnesota Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Jean Bergerson said that strong winds are expected to spread the fire even more Wednesday.

Bergerson said the strong winds have made it difficult to fight the fire.

Click here to see images of the fire.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports the fire, called the Pagami Creek Fire, made an “unprecedented run” traveling 16 miles to the east on Monday. It’s located about 14 miles east of Ely.

So far, 36 homes have been evacuated along County Road 7 just north of Isabella. The blaze had already forced officials to evacuate more than 100 campers threatened by the fire and smoke.

Bergerson said that if anyone is planning a trip to the BWCA, they should call ahead to see which entry points are closed. Several lakes to the east and south of the fire, including a hiking trail system, have been closed. Campers and hikers are being moved from the area and some were evacuated by National Forest Service float planes.

Minnesota Interagency Fire Center Spokeswoman Jean Bergerson On BWCA Fire Latest

Crews of four Minnesota National Guard helicopters have been dispatched to the area by Gov. Mark Dayton. The helicopters are equipped with buckets to make water drops.

Other airplanes and helicopters are also being used to drop water to slow the spread of the fire. Crews on the ground are patrolling the north side of the fire to monitor any spread. So far, nearly 200 personnel are assigned to fight the fire.

The Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross is responding to help residents affected by the growing Pagami Creek Fire.

“This afternoon, volunteers from the Northland Chapter are moving shelter materials, cots, blankets and refreshments to the Community Center in Finland, which has been established as a reception and evacuation center by Lake County,” Tony Guerra, Red Cross Preparedness Coordinator said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Minnesota DNR has enacted fire restrictions for areas inside and outside the BWCA.

Click here to see a PDF map of the fire perimeter on Sept. 12, 2011.

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