BWCAW blaze continues; some blowdown burning

By Tim
Spielman

Associate Editor

Ely, Minn. — A fire in the Boundary Waters Area Canoe
Wilderness of northeastern Minnesota continued to burn near the
Canadian border Tuesday, when a light rain in the morning did
little but allow firefighters to change their approach. More rain
was possible Tuesday night.

“Over the fire, the amount of rain was just over a tenth of an
inch,” said Jean Bergerson, of the Minnesota Interagency Fire
Center. “Yesterday (winds and heat) was a tough day, and right now
we’re at zero containment. But by tonight we expect some degree of
containment.”

Bergerson said the fire had consumed about 690 acres as of
Tuesday afternoon. About half of the fire was in a “blowdown” area
where a July 4th storm downed thousands of trees. She said the
blowdown area covered about half the half million-acre BWCAW.

The fire thus far hasn’t jeopardized campers in the wilderness
area, Bergerson said.

“We moved some campers around who were in campsites close to the
fire or where planes were dipping water,” she said. A total of 16
campsites and one canoe portage were closed to use.

On Tuesday, Bergerson said, three planes were being used to
scoop water from Seagull Lake – a water body with significant size
nearest the fire – and drop on the blaze. One of those planes had
arrived from North Carolina. The day before, similar planes had
been used from the province of Manitoba. Besides the eight state
and federal agencies involved with fire control, the BWCAW effort
also included fire-control officials from the states of Ohio,
Indiana, Missouri, and West Virginia, the Cook County (Minnesota)
Sheriff’s Department and the Gunflint Fire Department. Fire
officials in Wisconsin and Michigan were either on high alert or
battling an Upper Peninsula blaze that broke out this week,
Bergerson said.

Bergerson said the rainfall Tuesday morning afforded
firefighters the chance at “direct line construction,” which puts
them directly on the fire’s edge, giving them a better opportunity
to make headway.

The area, which generally receives about 4 inches of rain in
July, was about 3 inches behind normal, Bergerson said. “And we’ve
had little or nothing so far in August,” she said.

Winds that had hindered control efforts and enhanced the fire
had subsided on Tuesday, though the heat had returned.

Bergerson said although some prescribed burns had been completed
in the blowdown zone, the hot and dry conditions that now exist
would prevent such burning.

The Seagull Lake area is about 45 miles northeast of Ely. On
Monday, the 40- to 60-acre “Solway” fire in the Solway-Pinewood
area between Bagley and Bemidji was “wrapped up,” Bergerson
said.

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