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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Headlines  - News of the BWCA

Prescribed Burn at Greenwood and Brule

By Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star, October 9, 2000

On September 23, Forest Service personnel successfully "treated" 253 acres in the Greenwood Lake area of the Gunflint Trail with a prescribed burn. According to Forest Service personnel, conditions were finally right to conduct the burn originally scheduled for July of this year. The conditions provided another "window of opportunity" on October 2, and a prescribed burn of 116 acres was conducted on the Brule River. Mop-up continues at both sites and planning is underway for more burns if conditions allow.The helitorch lands at the helibase near the Greenwood prescribed burn site on September 23. The helitorch made approximately a dozen trips. Photo by Deidre Kettunen, Cook County Star

Before beginning the controlled burns, Forest Service personnel confirmed that weather conditions were safe. They checked all the roads in the area so the firefighters knew which were usable. They plotted escape routes and safety zones; double-checked communication systems, inspected hand tools and personal protective gear, and conducted safety briefings.

At the Greenwood site, ground crews began ignition at approximately 1:00 p.m. on September 23. Two man crews used hand igniters around the perimeter to create buffers along the control lines. Control lines consist of roads, saw and skidder lines and previous prescribed burns. Once those buffers were secured, aerial ignition is started.

A helitorch, a helicopter adapted to drop gas with a jelled component, or napalm ignites the interior. The napalm mix is released in a controlled pattern, with an igniter lighting it as it drips. For the Greenwood fire, District Fire Manager Timo Rova said the helitorch made approximately a dozen trips to the helibase near the burn site to refill. "We need to be near the site," he explained, "just like pouring cement or painting, you can't stop in the middle."

The Greenwood burn enabled the Forest Service to conduct the Brule River burn on October 2. "We had everybody in place from Greenwood, and we were able to go when we had a one-day window," said Rova, "We currently have crews from Montana, Idaho and Oregon, to assist with burn layout, burning and mop-up."

The 116-acre Brule River burn is located in the Gunflint Corridor, just below Okontoe and Adventurous Christians, off the Lima Grade Road, and a small section is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It is part of the clean up from the July 4, 1999 windstorm. The Greenwood Lake burn is the remainder of cleanup from an earlier blowdown in 1992, according to Gunflint District Ranger Jo Barnier.

Crews are still working at both sites. "We extinguish the edges," explained Rova, "but it's still burning. We let the interior pockets burn. Sometimes it can all go in an hour; sometimes it takes two or three days. The crews work around the edges, moving in. That's what we call 'mop-up.'" Mop-up will continue indefinitely, according to Rova. "When we get snow on it, it will be considered 'out.' Days are already getting shorter and colder, so some of our work will be done by Mother Nature."

The Forest Service has been taking advantage of the cooler weather. On the evening of September 21, blow-down clean up slash piles were burned at several locations on the Gunflint Trail - Blankenberg Pit, Cross River Pit, North and South, Aspen Lake Pit and at East Bearskin, so Gunflint residents are becoming used to the smell of smoke in the air.

However, during the Brule River burn, there was a lot of smoke and citizen concern - and calls to the local law enforcement center. But Rova said it was under control. "There were a few spots that crossed the road. But we picked them up." In addition to the fire crews, there is also a lot of equipment at a burn site. At the Greenwood burn there were three Forest Service fire engines; two skidders, contracted by local loggers; a Bell 212 helicopter; a CL-215 fixed-wing plane and two Forest Service beavers.

The Forest Service also hopes to conduct other burns while conditions are right, but Rova said it is hard to predict when they will occur. "We are considering some other burns. Now that we have the people here, we can decide to do it pretty fast."

Greenwood Area Prescribed Burn, Photo by Deidre Kettunen, Cook County Star

A helitorch drops gas with a jelled component, igniting the interior of the Forest Service Greenwood area prescribed burn on September 23.

Quetico Prescribed Burn

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