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Some Pagami Creek firefighters heading home; all fire restrictions lifted

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The number of wildland firefighters battling the Pagami Creek forest fire in the Superior National Forest is heading down as crews and cooler, damper weather have knocked the fire down.

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There are now about 660 firefighters on the job, after more than 830 were at the fire during the peak effort last week. Some crews from across the U.S. are now heading home as their two-week stint comes to an end, and no new firefighters are being called in, fire officials said Thursday.

Despite winds gusting to more than 30 mph at times Thursday, the fire didn't kick up much, thanks to light rain falling and thousands of hours of efforts at dousing any smoking embers along the fire's perimeter. Ground crews and pilots are using heat-seeking infrared cameras to spot the last remaining hotspots to focus their attention.

The fire was considered about 70 percent contained as of Thursday. The cost of fighting the fire has topped $12 million. Money for personnel, supplies, lodging, fuel and heavy equipment comes from the U.S. departments of Agriculture and the Interior, according to fire information officer Larry Helmerick.

Meanwhile Thursday, the Superior National Forest lifted the final fire restrictions, meaning campfires are allowed in all areas at all across the region.

Nearly all roads are open in the area, except for a few lightly-traveled National Forest roads. And only areas immediately near the fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness remain closed; other access points and routes have been re-opened.

The fire, which has burned across 93,459 acres, started Aug. 18 with a lightning strike and grew into an inferno on Sept. 12 in strong winds and drought conditions. It has not grown much since then.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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