Heavy smoke from Canadian wildfires has prompted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an air quality alert for northern Minnesota through Wednesday morning, July 21.
Areas under the alert include Hibbing, International Falls, Roseau, Bemidji and East Grand Forks.
Fine particle levels are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as people who have asthma or other breathing conditions, during this time, the MPCA said. The smoke will remain over the region until Wednesday morning, when winds push the smoke north and out of Minnesota, the agency said.
Over the weekend, rangers worked to reach campers spread across a vast swath of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that's now closed to visitors amid a growing threat from wildfires.
Late Saturday, July 17, Superior National Forest officials temporarily closed 12 more Boundary Waters entry points and the lakes, campsites, portages and trails they serve north and northwest of Ely.
Added to a previous closure in place along the international border, the closure area now stretches east nearly to Basswood Lake, west nearly to Crane Lake, and south to the Echo Trail.
The area is being cleared of canoeists and hikers as a precaution as wildfires continue to burn unchecked just north of the border, in Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park. The fires were active over the weekend and the ongoing drought is making fire conditions more volatile — adding to the risk the Quetico fires may cross into the BWCA.