Soaking rain dampens Pagami Creek fireSunday’s soaking rainfall, between a quarter-inch and half-inch near the fire, was the best medicine yet for crews trying to battle the Pagami Creek fire in the Superior National Forest.
By: John Myers, Associated Press
Sunday’s soaking rainfall, between a quarter-inch and half-inch near the fire, was the best medicine yet for crews trying to battle the Pagami Creek fire in the Superior National Forest.
The reprieve was enough for the U.S. Forest Service to let more people return to their homes and cabins Monday and reopen the Sawbill Lake entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which had been closed and evacuated for a week. All Gunflint Trail area entry points also were reopened.
“It’s good news. We’re e-mailing people now and telling them they can come up,” said Bill Hansen, owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, which has been closed since Sept. 13 when the approaching fire forced evacuation of that area.
Only BWCAW entry points and routes leading into the immediate fire area remain closed.
The fire hasn’t grown much for a week, but conditions until Sunday remained very dry and susceptible to the fire spreading if winds and temperatures had picked up again.
The rain should give firefighters several days of good conditions to keep building a containment line around the fire using water-dropping airplanes, bulldozers, chainsaws, fire hose, shovels and other hand tools to control the outside edge of the fire and keep it from spreading.
Most residents have been allowed to return to their homes and cabins, though several roads north of Minnesota Highway 1 and Lake County Highway 7 remain closed and off-limits to the public.
More than 700 people and several aircraft continued to work on the fire Monday. No one has been injured by the fire, but one firefighter was treated Monday for an ankle injury. On Monday night officials declared the fire 23 percent contained.
The fire started with a lightning strike Aug. 18, grew slowly and then exploded out of control Sept. 11-12 before settling down. It has burned about 94,000 acres, or 147 square miles. That number probably won’t grow much unless conditions return to warm, dry and windy for several days, fire officials say. The forecast calls for cold and damp weather ahead, with a good chance of rain today and Wednesday.
Because of the rugged terrain and inaccessible area of the BWCAW where the fire is located, it could be many days until officials declare the fire 100 percent contained. It could take until snow covers the ground for the fire to be 100 percent out.
Meanwhile on Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton made his second trip to the fire area in the last four days. Dayton, who was in Ely with federal officials Friday, attended the daily briefing in Isabella with local residents Monday evening and later met with firefighters and local first responders to thank them for their efforts.
A ban on all open fires remains in effect for the Superior National Forest. For more information on what’s open and closed in the BWCAW go here.
News Tribune staff writer Christa Lawler contributed to this report.