Residents being asked to evacuate as wind gusts fuel wildfire in northeastern Minn.

Pagami Creek fire
Canoeists paddle through the narrows between Lake Four and Lake Three, looking south at the fire and the smoke on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. "It really grew during the course of the day," said Greg Seitz, communications director for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
Photo courtesy Greg Seitz

Residents and campers near the Boundary Waters fire are being asked to evacuate as a wildfire burning in northeastern Minnesota continues to grow.

Fueled by dry trees and winds gusting to near 40 miles per hour, the Pagami Creek Fire has at least doubled in size, and some estimates say it may have tripled since the weekend.

It is now spreading south outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

"We're expecting higher winds again tomorrow coming out of the northwest," said Becca Manlove, public information officer with the Pagami Creek Fire Information. "We would rather people have a little time to think and gather things and move rather than asking them on very short notice.

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The blaze grew to over 16 thousand acres over the weekend, and it's expected to spread outside the BWCA, but heavy smoke makes it difficult to accurately estimate the size of the blaze, or know exactly where the edge of the fire is.

Shifting winds have caused erratic fire behavior, Jean Bergerson, fire information officer for the state.

"We do know that we've had significant spread, our wind just started to switch from the south to west," Bergerson said. "And it appears to have gone down just slightly from what it was earlier today but it's supposed to pick up again this evening."

Officials have closed a section of Highway 1 southeast of Ely, part of the Superior National Forest north of the highway, and several lakes and entry points in the Boundary Waters.