Another Fire in the BWCA

     We had to paddle and portage to get to where the fire had been reported.  When we arrived the smoke was thick and we couldn’t actually see where the fire was.  We paddled closer to the far shoreline and as we approached we could tell the fire had not made it up into the crowns of the trees.  It was working its way along the ground burning up debris on the forest floor.

     I could hear motor boats in the distance.  Soon the fire boats with the pumps and hose would be there and we could get to work.  Until they arrived there wasn’t much we could do but watch and wait.  Before I realized what had happened I was painting a cupboard blue in my friend’s kitchen,  trying not to drip paint onto her sink and the dishes inside of it.

     Eventually I woke up.  I was safe and sound in my own bed.  Too many recent conversations about the Ham Fire have awoken the thoughts in my head that have been smoldering throughout the winter.  "I hope we get alot of snow."  "I hope we have a wet spring."  "I hope people are careful with their campfires."  "I hope it doesn’t lightning if it does rain today." 

    The anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire is on El Cinco de Mayo, May 5th.  We’ll have spent the weekend planting trees for the Gunflint Green Up and having a great time in the outdoors for the Ham Run.  There will no doubt be a few stories of the fire told during the weekend.

     It’s difficult not to think about last year’s Ham Lake Fire.  We were preparing for the upcoming paddling season, getting equipment ready to go and cleaning things up.  Of course there were tons of things to do before the guests arrived and some of those things had to wait until spring.  That and the fact we had procrastinated doing other things we could have been doing all winter. 

     Then BAM!  It was like we were thrust into another universe.  One of smoke, flames and chaos.  One of the 3 year round neighbor’s home was burned to the ground, our good friend’s outfitting building and business no longer remained and several piles of ashes were all that remained of summer cabins on our road.  We drove around in the fire truck, going down one driveway to the next. 

     We held our breath as we rounded the corner.  "Oh, thank goodness, so and so’s cabin is still standing."  We’d get out, circle the cabin and see burning grass inching up the hill to the cabin.  "You better radio and get a truck in here to put it out."  Then the next driveway, everything looked normal, the shed was there, the fish cleaning building, all was in place until I saw an empty space where the cabin was suppose to be.  "OH NO!  Their cabin is gone, how can that be?"  There wasn’t time to mourn because flames could be seen shooting up at the cabin next door that was still standing.  "Quick, we need air support or we’re going to lose it!"   "Hurry, get the hoses, move the firewood away from the cabin, grab that shovel, quick!"  That was a close call.

     The fire dragged on day after day, week after week threatening home after home.  It was like a merry-go-round that wasn’t merry and wouldn’t stop.  Until finally it did and we were allowed to go home and everything would be back to normal.  Except it wasn’t normal.  Electricity had been off for days, we didn’t have telephone service and everything was a mess.

     The mess was there and had to be dealt with.  There were guests arriving and things weren’t ready.  Boats weren’t in the water, cabins weren’t cleaned, outfitting wasn’t organized and we couldn’t call our guests without driving a mile.  We couldn’t issue fishing licenses or run credit cards and we couldn’t call our friends or our family without taking a drive.  The kids were still in school, there was t-ball, birthday parties and life was happening around us.  It just didn’t feel like we were a part of it. 

     It was a strange feeling that persisted the entire summer.  It just didn’t feel right.  A sense of uneasiness, unpreparedeness and a general sense of disarray.  All I could do was look forward to the winter and summer being over.  Now winter is over and summer is coming again.

     A feeling of apprehension and uncertainty but also a feeling of excitement is within me.  It’s going to be a good summer.  We’re going to be ready.  We have a great staff here and more on the way.  Worry is negative goal setting so there is no sense in doing that. Everything is fine, better than fine, hasn’t been better actually. There isn’t going to be another fire in the BWCA this summer.   It’s going to be terrific, It’s going to be terrific, it’s going to be terrific.