Near-record heat in Minnesota brings wildfire to the Boundary Waters

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

A heat wave in the upper Midwest has people trying to stay cool, while the National Guard is activated by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to fight a new wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Temperatures cracked 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in St. Paul, Minnesota, and reached a record-breaking 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35.5 Celsius) in Duluth, Minnesota.

Smoke was spotted Friday afternoon in the wilderness area about one mile southwest of Seagull Lake. This area of the 1 million acre wilderness was hit by a severe windstorm in 1999, which killed millions of trees, increasing concern about the future threat of wildfires.

Firefighters are not yet on the ground, as the fire is located in a remote area inaccessible by trails or lakes. Helicopters have been called in to begin suppression efforts immediately.

Jean Bergerson, spokesperson for the Minnesota Inter-agency Fire Center, described the blaze as "well over 1,000" acres in size. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

UPDATE:Saturday, June 17, 2006

The flames continue to rage in Northern Minnesota as the fire expands by the hour, now engulfing more than 6,000 acres of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune today.

The purported cause of the fire is a lightning strike.

There are now over 60 firefighters stationed on the ground near the fire, though it is still considered too dangerous to combat the blaze directly.

This is the largest fire to take place in Minnesota in years, and has now spread to within 3 miles of the Gunflint Trail, though the trail may be protected by controlled burn zones put in place in recent years by the US Forest Service.

Govenor Tim Pawlenty plans a fly-over of the afflicted area.

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