Two water-scooping aircraft from Arizona on Tuesday will join the crews fighting the Pagami Creek Fire burning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as dry winds are expected over the area in coming days.
The fire is now 71 percent contained, but "we're still seeing a little more fire activity out there, and we expect to see a little more fire activity continuing to pick up throughout the week," said fire information officer Jean Bergerson.
Each aircraft can carry 11,000 gallons of water. Their arrival comes as the number of firefighters battling the massive blaze dropped to 450 from 530 over the weekend, and the estimated cost of firefighting has increased to $14.7 million.
Most of the departing crewmembers are from a team from the northern Rockies. A Minnesota team took over Monday morning.
No significant rain is expected through the end of the weekend, but wind speeds will increase each day, with the strongest winds - 35 mph or more -- expected on Friday. The last time they faced winds of 30-plus mph, the crews were not out on the line for safety reasons.
"Anytime a fire burns through an area that has trees on it, it quite often weakens the root system of the trees, so they come down very easily," Bergerson said. "When you get high winds, they're much more apt to topple, so we don't want the firefighters working in an area where they might have a tree fall over on them."
The strong winds could also force the grounding of fire-fighting helicopters and planes. Bergerson said crews are better prepared than they were three weeks ago to handle sudden weather changes like this, but it could be a problem if the wind becomes too strong.