BWCA Fire Hits 100,000 Acres; Strong Winds Continue

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.

  • ALK

    So the fire tripled in size??? Does that mean the lightning strike instantly started a 20,000 acre fire. Crazy.

  • Eileen Wright

    I live in northern Illinois. We smelled something burning about an hour ago. Still smell it, see no signs of fire so I called the police to report/inquire. They said that what we are seeing and smelling is from the Minnesota forest fires.

    • Milli


  • Willow

    Lightning causes most forest fires in the Western US, according to the above article. So yes, it’s possible that a cloud-to-ground strike caused a 20,000 fire. But not instantly, obviously, it takes a few minutes for a fire to spread.

  • stung4ever

    Since the environmentalists were so opposed to seeing a cell tower that was outside the BWCA, are they going to oppose using modern fire trucks and helicopters to fight the blaze?

  • wendel

    Don’t fight it, let it burn. It’s what happens in a true “wilderness”.

  • Emily

    They can smell it in Wisconsin too.

  • Kali

    FYI, I think there’s a typo in your intro paragraph that you can also see on the homepage! (Lightning, not lighting).

    Cold Is Here: Things To Do Before Winter Comes

    ELY, Minn. (WCCO) – A fire that started from a LIGHTNING strike in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is now burning more than 60,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota, tripling in size since it started.

  • jesse

    I was up there on thurs thru sun camping on hudson lake and when we left they were just starting to evacuate people. Looks like we got out just in time.

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