Wet weather is helping firefighters strengthen their grip on the Pagami Creek fire, which has now burned for more than a month in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
A steady rain that fell across the fire Tuesday helped stall the growth of the massive blaze, which is now 30 percent contained. The area got about two-tenths of an inch of rain Tuesday, allowing firefighters to make steady progress. Fire information officer Doug Anderson said more moisture is in the forecast.
"Tomorrow it's going to start turning colder with some more rain," Anderson said. "It's going to be the combination of cold and rain that's going to keep a lid on this fire for at least a few days."
On Wednesday, crews will begin fighting the east side of the fire, and they'll use explosives to create firebreaks. Efforts so far have focused on the northwest and south.
Anderson said the nearly 100,000-acre blaze won't actually be extinguished until the snow falls.
"You might not see anything smoking, but interior stuff will smoke still," he said. "You'll get a few big trees piled together and they're going to sit there. The rain falls, but the underside stays dry; so that stuff will smoke until snow."
Anderson said even after the fire is contained, aircraft will monitor it to make sure it doesn't start moving again.
Incident commander Doug Turman told firefighters in a briefing Tuesday morning not to get complacent.
"There's a lot of ground out there," he said. "It's a big animal as someone said before, so we'll just take it piece by piece until we get our hands wrapped around it."
Warmer and dryer weather will return Thursday and continue into the weekend.
Nearly 800firefighters are working to corral the blaze. New crews are expected to arrive on Wednesday, some to replacing crew members wrapping up their two-week shifts. Others are planning how to attack the fire on its northeast flank to prevent it from burning further into the wilderness.
On Monday, helicopters dropped 10,000 pounds of cargo for hotshot crews building fire lines on the northern perimeter within the Boundary Waters.
Crews expect to have the southern part of the fire that's escaped the wilderness area contained in the next two to three days.
BWCA 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 Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
View Pagami Creek fire in a larger map