Rocky Mountain team takes over Pagami Creek fire managementby Dan Kraker, Minnesota Public Radio
Ely, Minn. — The size and scope of fighting the Pagami Creek wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has grown so large that a special management team from the northern Rocky Mountains has now arrived in Ely to take over its management.
Officials say that, by the end of the week, approximately 500 people will be engaged in controlling the fire, which started from a lightning strike about 14 miles east of Ely and has now burned roughly 100,000 acres of forest.
In addition to crews and equipment from all over the region, the Rockies, California and New Jersey, four Minnesota National Guard "Black Hawk" helicopters have been deployed to support firefighters. The Canadian province of Manitoba is sending two water bombers and an air attack plane, and about 100 elite "hot shot" firefighters from Arizona are due at the scene Thursday evening.
Light rain and cold temperatures have slowed the progress of the fire over the past couple days, but it remains uncontained and has scorched at least 100,000 acres of forest. It's Minnesota's largest wildfire in almost 100 years.
Jim Grant, a firefighter working the blaze, said crews made progress on Wednesday in clearing areas to slow the fire on its southern edge outside the wilderness area.
"It was a good day," he said. "It was slow going, but we did accomplish quite a bit. Today's going to be a better day. We know that."
Light winds and cool temperatures are expected and officials don't expect the fire to spread radically. But warmer and dryer conditions are forecast again this weekend, and that may have an adverse effect on firefighting efforts.
Superior National Forest supervisor Jim Sanders told firefighters at a morning briefing Thursday in Ely to stay on alert.
"Don't be lulled into sleep" by the weather, he said. "That scraping ice off the windshields this morning [doesn't mean] we're on the down side. This is just allowing us to take a shallow breath before we start off on the next sprint."
The fire from moving toward populated areas, including the small town of Isabella, where 240 homes remain on standby to evacuate.
PAGAMI CREEK FIRE MAP
The icons contain photos of the burn area before the fire started. The icons show closed entry points. The icons indicate entry points that are still open to use as of Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011.
View Pagami Creek fire in a larger map
Do you have pre-burn photos from the Pagami Creek fire area? Send them to us and we'll include them on this map and in a slideshow.
- All Things Considered, 09/15/2011, 5:18 p.m.