ISABELLA, MINN. – More than 34 square miles of northern Minnesota forest have been set ablaze by the Greenwood fire, officials said Wednesday, but hope is on the horizon as more favorable weather finally has slowed the fire's growth.

"In the near term it looks like we've got really good weather that will allow these firefighters to really make some progress," said Clark McCreedy, public information officer for the interagency team managing the state's largest wildfire, which is burning about 30 miles north of Two Harbors in the Superior National Forest.

Cloud cover, moderate winds and lower temperatures will help the 429 personnel fighting the fire, and rain is likely over the next few days. The fire continues to hold on the south side of Hwy. 1, which ground crews have maintained as a containment line.

Hundreds have been evacuated, and the extent of property damage became more clear this week after crews cleared roads around the McDougal Lake area.

Videos taken around the north and middle lakes show some properties were incinerated and only foundations remained.

"It's heartbreaking. I can't imagine having a cabin for generations then having it just vanish," said Michael Furtman, who owns a cabin in the area that was spared destruction. "Some folks have said, 'We're safe now,' but I don't know, we're still right in the middle of the fire. When the fire goes through it doesn't burn up all the fuel, and the cabins themselves are fuel.

"It's not over. It's like a slow-motion nightmare."

Isabella resident Joyce Kuehl was evacuated earlier in the week. She's been staying at a hotel in Silver Bay while her husband, a logger, works on the fire.

"We're concerned with the wind today, but every day it changes," she said, noting the fire has burned 11 days with no containment. "But they are doing everything they can."

Finland resident Dennis Nelson lives about 30 miles from the fire's footprint. He's not worried about evacuation yet, he said, but the smoke has become a constant.

"The wind comes and you get a sigh of relief, and then it comes back," he said.

The fire's size was estimated at 21,720 acres Wednesday, a 2,000-acre increase from Tuesday that was largely due to more complete overnight mapping.

It's not clear when the fire, which was caused by lightning, will be contained, McCreedy said.

"We're always at the mercy of the weather. That said, the weather is doing us a favor over the next two to three days, so we're looking to make some progress," McCreedy said.

Intense drought conditions have caused a number of other fires to spark in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but many will burn freely as firefighting efforts are focused on the Greenwood blaze.

The Superior National Forest has closed its land and roads around the upper 20 miles of the Gunflint Trail — between Poplar Lake and the Trails End Campground — "due to fires in the vicinity and limited availability of firefighting resources." The closure is through Tuesday and affects the same area the Cook County Sheriff's Office has placed under pre-evacuation notice. There were no mandatory evacuations in Cook County as of Wednesday evening.

The Gunflint Trail itself and private land and resorts remain open.

"With continued fires and a shortage of firefighting resources, these closures allow firefighters to focus on existing fires or new starts without the concern for public safety," the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.

The 1,500-acre John Ek fire and the 50-acre Whelp fire continue to show "moderate fire activity," and to date no firefighters have been sent due to "difficult access, limited aircraft resources, and safety concerns," officials said.

Crews may be inserted into the Whelp fire, 5 miles northwest of Sawbill Lake, in the coming days. Suppression plans are still in the works for the John Ek fire, which is burning between John Ek Lake and Elton Lake.

On Isle Royale, 35 miles east of Grand Portage, Minn., in Lake Superior, fire crews have been able to get 15% containment on the 200-acre Horne fire, the National Park Service said Tuesday. The fire, which started Aug. 10 after a lightning strike, has prompted a number of closures on the island.

"Employees from the National Park Service, Hiawatha National Forest and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have responded to the fire," the park service said. "Their work includes patrols in Tobin Harbor to protect historic structures. One outhouse was burned in the fire on Minong Island, but no other structures have been damaged at this time."

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson has been calling property owners to let them know the fate of their cabins. Those who have been evacuated or who need resources can call Lake County Emergency Management at 773-844-6449.

Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this report.

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496