Wet weather in northeastern Minnesota over the weekend helped firefighters in their battle with the Pagami Creek fire which raced across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness last week and continues to threaten the area.
Officials say they have the 93,898 acre fire 19% contained thanks to the cooler, wetter conditions and the efforts of some 600 firefighters. The total acreage consumed by the fire was revised downward from 100,000 acres over the weekend. The weather forecast is for more weather helpful to the firefighting effort through Wednesday.
The fireline on the southern edge of the fire is considered strong enough to allow some evacuated residents back into their Isabella-area residences. Permanent residents from east of Isabella who were under a mandatory evacuate order were allowed back to their residences. Temporary residents remain evacuated, and the area is still closed to the public.
Firefighters are also focusing on the northeastern front of the fire, deep inside the BWCAW. If southerly winds were to push that edge of the fire northward, the flames could encounter acres of trees toppled in the 1999 blowdown.
A Forest Service map of the extant of the fire and the status of firelines can be found HERE.
On Friday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and Minnesota Eight District Representative Chip Cravaack visited the fire area and met with Forest Service officials. Dayton pledged that the state would do all in its power to protect homeowners threatened by the fire.
Cravaack, who had criticized the Forest Service’s handling of the fire before he visited the area, said on Friday that now was not the time to point fingers.
MPR has coverage of the visit by elected officials HERE.
MPR also has two stories on the hidden benefits of the fire, reporting, HERE, about the boost brought to the Ely economy by the firefighting effort and, HERE, reporting that biologists think regeneration of the burned areas could be a boon for the area’s threatened moose population.