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Boundary Waters closure extended through Sept. 3 amid wildfire danger

Existing fires grew and more fires have popped up.
Smoke from the John Ek fire, Aug. 20, 2021

Smoke from the John Ek fire, Aug. 20, 2021

Federal forestry officials appear poised to extend the current, full closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness amid ongoing threats from wildfires.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced the initial shutdown Saturday, canceling all permits through Aug. 27. The closure will apparently be extended even further. 

On Tuesday, Ely Outfitting Company said the federal agency has canceled all permits from Aug. 28-Sept. 3. 

A spokesperson for USFS confirmed to Bring Me The News the cancellations through that date. 

"We had four additional fires start in the Wilderness yesterday and continue to have extreme fire danger and limited resources," the spokesperson said.

Wildfire activity has only intensified in recent days.

Minnesota Incident Command System shows 10 active wildfires in and around Superior National Forest on the U.S. side of the border, with multiple fires just over the border on the Canadian side as well.

The Greenwood Fire, now at more than 19,000 acres, is the largest in Minnesota, though that remains south of the Boundary Waters. 

Related: Minnesota's Greenwood Fire explodes to nearly 20,000 acres

Of the handful of fires within the BWCAW, the John Elk fire may be the one of most concern. 

The lightning-caused fire, detected on Aug. 14, doubled in size Monday, jumping from about 800 acres to 1,500 acres, according to USFS. Officials are encouraging nearby Gunflint Trail residents to prepare in case of an evacuation order. 

The Cook County Sheriff's Office is going door to door to discuss "get ready" plans, though stressed there is no mandatory evacuation order as of Monday evening.

Wildfire smoke has led to an air quality alert for portions of northeast Minnesota, with unhealthy particle levels expected in certain spots.

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