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Boundary Waters named by USA Today as one of the Top Ten Places to Extend the Summer

North Shore Fire Watch

Cook County Star, June 10, 2002

Watchful eyes have been focused on the blow down area of forest on the Gunflint Trail, so it is somewhat surprising that the first significant fire fighting effort of 2002 was in the Tofte and Finland area.  Three lightning strike fires dubbed the "North Shore Complex" had dozens of fire crews working in remote areas.  At press time, 120 people were continuing to mop up, locating hot spots and securing fire lines.

The Sugar Loaf fire had local Volunteer Fire Departments scrambling to find it on Friday, May 31.  Tofte and Schroeder Fire Departments were paged out for a fire at Sugar Loaf Cove at 1:00 p.m.  They responded to Sugar Loaf Cove Interpretive Center and found no fire.  Air support directed the departments to a one-and-a-half acre fire approximately half a mile up the Sugar Loaf Road.  Forest Service crews took over at approximately 2:00 p.m.  By Saturday afternoon, June 1, the Minnesota Incident Command System (MICS) reported the fire was 100% contained.

The 150-acre Balsam Fire was spotted Friday, May 31 by aerial observation about two-and-a-half acres from the nearest open road.  Tofte District Ranger Jackie Andrew said, "It took quite a while to get access.  The crew got a dozer in on Saturday morning.  The dozer put a fireline around approximately 60% of the fire and hand-crews did the rest with the assistance of helicopters," said Andrew.

By Monday, June 3 the Balsam Lake fire was 80% contained.  Forest Service Fire Management Officer Tim Norman said things were going well.  "We're hoping to be done by Thursday.  We're mopping up now --retrieving gear and doing rehab work."

The 100-acre Lookout Mountain fire in Lake County is also considered part of the "North Shore complex."  Heavy fuels and poor access hampered containment efforts at that site.  On Monday, June 3, MNIC said it was 50% contained.

Fires were also being battled near Brainerd and Moose Lake.  A total of eleven 20-person crews from out of Minnesota are assisting local firefighters in the efforts throughout the sate.  In addition, three C1-215s, tow conventional air tankers, and 18 helicopters are positioned around the state.

Andrew said the Tofte District was prepared for the fires.  "Because of the dry weather and the recent storms, we were aware the potential for fire was high.  Crews were called in last week from out-of-state."

Restrictions remain on for campfires in the blowdown area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and no burning permits are being issued in north central and northeastern Minnesota.

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