Prescribed burn season
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.
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
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
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."