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BWCA Weather

BWCA Weather for Ely, Grand Marais, and the Gunflint Trail

Adventure on the Beargrease Trail, March 7th, 2005

Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service
At press time, the Alpine Lake fire was approximately 1,000 acres. It has been burning since Saturday, August 6. From the air the smoke that can be smelled as far away as Silver Bay is evident.

Click Here for the most recent Alpine Lake Fire Update

Firefighting continues at Alpine Lake

By Rhonda Silence
The normally quiet Blankenburg Landing on the Gunflint Trail's Seagull Lake was the scene of much activity on Tuesday, August 9, 2005. The sound of lapping waves and loon calls was replaced with the hum of residents and visitors at a US Forest Service briefing and fire-fighting planes roaring overhead. Approximately 50 people gathered to hear the latest about the fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). At press time on Thursday, August 11, the fire, which was started by a lightning strike, had grown to approximately 1,040 acres.
The Forest Service Gunflint Ranger District was contacted at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 6 by Canadian authorities, reporting a fire between Seagull Lake, Alpine Lake, and Red Rock Lake. By 6:30 p.m. that evening it appeared that the fire covered 400 acres. Gunflint Ranger Dennis Neitzke requested and received initial assistance of two CL-215 water bombers from Canada. Also responding to fight the fire was a CL-215 from the State of Minnesota, a Forest Service helicopter, lead plane, and Beaver.
At 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, a Minnesota Type 2 Management Team took control of the incident, with representatives from the Cook County Sheriff Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Gunflint Volunteer Fire Department, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, and Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Rain fell on Monday, August 8, which along with cooler temperatures, helped fire suppression efforts a little bit on Tuesday, August 9. At the public meeting on the 9th, Fire Behavior Analyst Doug Miedtke spoke about the rainfall, noting that only about a 10th of an inch fell on the fire area. "It gave us a little lull, but not enough," he said. "Without more rain, the fire will build again. But the winds should be light for the next four days or so and that should help."
Gunflint Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dan Baumann reassured Gunflint residents and visitors that the fire department was "fully in the loop." He said he was very comfortable with the Management Team's handling of the fire. Many residents were glad to hear that Baumann had wildfire experience from the extensive Sag Corridor Fire in 1995. "The 10-year anniversary of that fire is tomorrow," he said.
Sheriff Mark Falk also said he was comfortable with the team's efforts, noting that the main objective is public safety. He said there were no plans for evacuating any of the Gunflint Trail, but encouraged residents and visitors to stay in touch. Fire reports are posted as they are received on the local internet provider website
Incident Commander Jim Hinds wrapped up the public meeting by telling the crowd that just because some rain had fallen, the fire was far from out. He said fire fighters do not like to give estimates of the length of time it will take to extinguish a wildfire, but he said it would take at least two weeks. Hinds said, "Everything we've done up to this point has been indirect. With this change in the weather, we will be able to start direct attack, with firefighters on the ground."
When citizens had the opportunity to ask questions, one asked if the fire had touched Seagull Lake. Hinds said it was primarily on Alpine Lake, but it had jumped to some of the islands on Seagull. He said one five-acre island was on fire as were several smaller ones. The team was monitoring them closely, but Hinds said they would probably be allowed to burn. "We want them to burn off, to reduce the fuel load," he said. "But you may see us take action if the fire jumps."
As the group dispersed, another citizen expressed concern about the two-week estimate. Forest Service Public Relations Officer Donna Hart explained that some of the time would be spent "mopping up" after the blaze is contained.
At 10 a.m. on August 11, US Forest Service spokesperson Allen Bier reported that the fire was 15% contained. He said it had advanced toward Seagull Lake a little more, but that it had not reached the Palisades. Good weather was allowing ground work and the firefighters were doing "burn outs" to slow the fire's progress.
The number of personnel assigned to the fire at this point is 200. Approximately 16 campsites on five lakes have been closed; they include sites on Grandpa, Seagull, Saganaga, Alpine and Red Rock. The portage between Alpine and Seagull lakes is also closed.
To prevent further fire incidents, fire restrictions in the blowdown area of the BWCAW were placed in effect on Friday, August 12. Restrictions state:
*Use of campfires or wood/charcoal burning stoves is not allowed in the restricted area.
*Exception: Campfires will be allowed, any time of day, at Trails End, Iron Lake, East Bearskin and Flour Lake developed campgrounds, ONLY in fire grates.
*Campfire restrictions also apply to PowWow and Eagle Mountain/Brule Trails
*The Kekekabic Trail, east of Disappointment Lake, and the Border Route Trail and connector trails will be closed to all use.
*Use of gas or propane cook stoves will be allowed anywhere in the restricted area at any time of the day.
At press time, the Cook County Star learned that a group of Seagull Lake property owners upset about the burn outs being done along the shoreline were planning a flotilla on the lake to protest the Forest Service plans.


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