ON THE GUNFLINT TRAIL, Minn. (AP) -- Firefighters made strong progress Tuesday in their battle against a wildfire burning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and said they hope to get it contained on Saturday.
Jean Bergerson, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, said the fire was 46 percent contained as of Tuesday evening, and that significant rain was forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday.
''We're hoping for full containment by the end of the shift on Saturday, which would be at 6 p.m. on Saturday,'' she said.
About 250 people were still fighting the fire, down somewhat because some homes on the edge of the remote wilderness area are no longer considered in danger, she said. The total area burned remained unchanged from the day before at 1,335 acres.
Firefighters worked with hand tools Tuesday to build a perimeter on the north side of the fire. Cynthia Sage, another spokeswoman for the fire center, said a group of firefighters cleared trees and brush in a two-mile line with hand tools. ''It's a little gentler on the environment than a bulldozer,'' she said.
The idea was to take fuel away from the fire and stop its advance, she said.
Other firefighters were mopping up little fires in the area and patrolling fire lines on other sides of the fire, she said.
The firefighting operation had cost $1.9 million as of Tuesday evening.
The fire has burned between Alpine, Seagull, Red Rock and Grandpa lakes since it was sparked by lightning on July 30 and smoldered until flaring up Aug. 6.
It is the largest fire in a decade in the area, which is near the end of the Gunflint Trail, the 57-mile road leading into the wilderness from Grand Marais. Much of the burned area contained dead timber blown down in a 1999 windstorm that toppled millions of trees in and near the BCWAW.
Firefighters working on the rough terrain of northeastern Minnesota have suffered only minor injuries so far, Sage said, including a twisted ankle, a broken finger and a strained knee.
''That's not too bad, considering,'' she said.
On the Net:
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center: www.mnics.org
Copyright 2005 Associated Press