Fanned by gusty northwest winds, the Pagami Creek Fire nearly quadrupled in size yesterday, charring Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness forest from Lakes One and Two in the north to just north of Clearwater Lake in the south.
The fast-moving fire covered 16,000 acres of the BWCAW on Monday, up from 4500 acres on Sunday. The massive flare-up yesterday — driven by dry conditions and winds that gusted to 40 miles-per-hour — prompted the “precautionary evacuation” of residents in the rural areas north and east of Isabella. On Monday, wilderness rangers escorted more than 120 campers from the BWCAW to keep them out of the fire’s path.
Update: Minnesota Public Radio reported this morning, HERE, that the fire now encompasses 60,000 acres. Windy conditions forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday make it likely the fire will continue to expand.
The fire is now being categorized as a “Type 1” fire. The distinction means the country’s most experienced fire crews will attempt to suppress the fire and make fire breaks. Initially, the Forest Service had tried to contain the fire and to keep if from burning to the north.
Closures to areas in the BWCAW due to the fire remain in effect. The portages along the following routes are closed: Lakes One through Hudson, Fire, Bridge, Rifle, the Wilder Lakes, Horseshoe, Pagami, Clearwater, Turtle, Camdre, Pietro, Gull, Quadga, Rice, Isabella Lake, and the Isabella River. The southern campsites on Bald Eagle Lake are closed. The Pow Wow Trail is also closed.
According to the Superior National Forest officials, campsites on the southern shores of Insula Lake will be added to the closure areas today. Campfire restrictions are in place across the BWCAW: campfires are allowed only between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Find complete, regularly updated information on the fire, HERE, at the fire’s Incident Information System web site.
During the day Tuesday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton mobilized four Minnesota National Guard Blackhawk Helicopters and Army and Air National Guard Aviation support teams to help fight the fire.
While residents in and around Isabella seem to be in less danger than at the start of the day, forecast winds are now likely to push the fire north and east into the heart of the BWCAW on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
The StarTribune illustrates the extent of the fire HERE.
Most entry points to the BWCAW are now closed, save for those north and west of Ely and at the end of the Gunflint Trail.
Minnesota Public Radio has collected a gallery of striking photos of the fire HERE.