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Rain stalls BWCAW wildfire, but not until after cabin burns

There's been little or no growth to the fire since Tuesday evening.

Bezhik Fire 2 May 18, 2021.JPG
Smoke billows from the Bezhik Lake fire in the BWCAW Tuesday afternoon. Light rain, higher humidity levels and cooler temperatures Wednesday were aiding firefighter efforts to contain the 950-acre blaze that burned to the Moose Loop Road outside the BWCAW. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

Significant rain over the past 24 hours, with more expected in coming days, should help douse the Bezhik Lake wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The fire, now estimated to have burned across roughly 950 acres, started Monday with a lightning strike and grew rapidly during warm, dry and windy conditions Tuesday afternoon.

The fire — about 20 miles northwest of Ely — spread out of the wilderness and onto private property in the area of Moose Loop Road, Forest Road 464, a spur off the Echo Trail. Tim Engrav, a spokesman for the Superior National Forest, said one cabin and three sheds were destroyed by the fire.

Moose Loop Road has been temporarily closed due to the proximity to the fire. BWCAW entry point No. 8 on the Moose River and No. 76 on Big Moose Trail also are closed. Anyone with permits for those entry points can contact the LaCroix Ranger District for an alternative entry point.

An automated weather station at Ely recorded more than a half inch of rain early Thursday with more expected in coming days.

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“We essentially had no movement on the fire at all (Wednesday) thanks to the weather, and today we have had steady rain, so we aren't seeing much fire activity,’’ Engrav said.

The fire is considered about 10% contained.

Some 120 firefighters and nine fire engines were on the ground battling the blaze and one helicopter remained on the scene to help snuff hotspots. On Tuesday several firefighting aircraft, including heavy tankers brought in from other states, dropped water on the fire in an effort to keep it from moving out of the wilderness.

“They were able to push it west and away from several structures, but unfortunately one seasonal cabin, or hunting shack, was destroyed,’’ Engrav said. "We've been working with the county to notify the property owners and find out exactly what kind of structures were in that area."

Spring is usually Minnesota’s busiest wildfire season. So far this year, Minnesota has seen 1,107 wildfires that have burned across 33,339 acres, according to the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids. Fire danger diminishes rapidly as the woods and grasses reach full greenup.

Related Topics: FIRESDULUTHWEATHER
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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