DULUTH (AP) -- State, federal and Canadian officials are imposing far-reaching fire restrictions in response to dry conditions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other areas along the border.
All of the restrictions will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Officials expect to lift the fire ban after the next substantial rainfall.
Superior National Forest officials are banning all campfires in the 1 million-acre Boundary Waters and the Superior National Forest, except in designated campgrounds. Voyageurs National Park will allow campfires only in metal fire pits at designated campsites. All other fires will be banned.
And the state Department of Natural Resources is withholding burning permits for residents across northern St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties, with only a few exceptions -- such as road construction.
Ontario officials also will crack down on campfires in most areas across the border from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay, including Quetico Provincial Park.
The ban in the Boundary Waters covers the entire wilderness, not just in the blowdown area hit by the 1999 windstorm.
"Every day we go without rain it gets that much drier. And we're already at historically dry conditions," said Jean Bergerson, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids.
After an unusually wet spring that lasted into June, a sudden and hard dry spell has left much of the northern forest parched. The millions of dead and drying trees felled during the blowdown two years ago are especially ready to burn. Experts say that dry wood will push fires faster and farther than traditional forest fires.
These are by far the driest conditions in the blowdown area since the windstorm hit in 1999, officials said.
"We're one lightning storm away from hell," said Peter Leschak, crew chief on the DNR's firefighting helicopter stationed at Devils Track Lake near Grand Marais.
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