Smoke from a large wildfire in northeast Minnesota is moving through Illinois this afternoon. The fire started when lightning struck about 15 miles east of Ely, Minn. in mid-August.
Meteorologist Kevin Kraujalis of the National Weather Service in Duluth, Minn., said the a cold front that moved through Illinois early this morning, coupled with the size of the fire are to blame for the hazy conditions.
"Well, it's a pretty big fire, it's an excess of 60,000 acres so until the steering winds in the atmosphere come more westerly, you can expect to see some smoke and haze and conditions like that," Kraujalis said.
Kraujalis said the smoke is thickest in the northern part of Illinois, especially in the western suburbs of Chicago. He said the smoke could stay through the overnight hours, but expects the winds to die down tomorrow.
The National Weather Service in Chicago is reporting that smoke is prevalent enough that people could have difficulty breathing or suffer from irritated eyes. They encouraged people who suffer from respiratory problems to take caution.
The fire at the Pagami Creek started on August 18th and has been burning since then. Kraujalis said the fire was controlled at first, but due to dry weather and some unseasonably high temperatures, the fire grew over the last week. Several lakes to the east and south of the fire have been closed, and campers and hikers are being moved from the surrounding areas. According to an incident report, some hikers have been transported by Forest Service float planes.
Today, airplanes and helicopters are hovering over the fire, dropping water in attempts to slow the spread of the blaze.