Boundary Waters fire hits 60,000 acres

By CHRIS WILLIAMS | September 13, 2011 | 4:10 PM EDT

A plum of smoke from the Pagami Creek wildfire towers over the wilderness north of Ely, Minn., on Sept. 10, 2011. The fire is reported to have burned more than 4500 acres as of Sunday. (AP photo/Mesabi Daily News, Angie Riebe)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Residents of a small Minnesota town are braced for possible evacuation after strong winds whipped a forest fire into a blaze covering about 93 square miles in the northeastern part of the state.

The fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a lake-dotted region along the Minnesota-Canada border, on Tuesday was sending a plume of smoke and haze across the Upper Midwest, with reports of haze as far away as Illinois and northern Michigan.

The fire started Aug. 18 with a lighting strike 20 miles from Ely, but began spreading quickly this week in windy, dry conditions. The fire raced 16 miles east in a single day from Monday to Tuesday.

The blaze already has forced officials to evacuate more than 100 campers threatened by the fire and smoke.