Crews are continuing to make progress against the fire that's been burning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for more than a month, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Pagami Creek blaze is now about 45 percent contained, up from 39 percent Friday night, officials said Sunday.

"It's been good news for the past couple days," said Jeff Edmonds, an information officer for the state Department of Natural Resources in Ely, Minn. "The fire has not grown in a week."

Because of more accurate mapping, officials now have shrunk the size of the blaze to about 93,459 acres, or 146 square miles.

Drizzly weather last week aided firefighters, but no new rain is expected now until Wednesday or Thursday, and warmer, drier air on Saturday and Sunday was increasing fire activity a bit. However, warmer conditions have actually been a help to crews by making smoke from hot spots easier to see, Edmonds said.

About 877 people, including those manning four Minnesota National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, are involved in the extensive firefighting operation, officials said.

The largest fire in the wilderness region in recent history, the Pagami Creek fire has sent smoke as far as Chicago and sparked debate over the U.S. Forest Service's handling of the blaze. It's believed to have been started by a lightning strike Aug. 18 east of Ely.

About 10 percent of the fire -- about 9,300 acres -- lies outside the BWCA, near Lake Isabella.

Some BWCA entry points remain closed for day and overnight use. A complete list of closures is at

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683