Fire on Seagull Lake?

     The smell of smoke in the air, the haze in the sky and the orange glow from the sun the past few days have brought memories of the Ham Lake Fire to the forefront of my mind.  Irritable, cranky and on the edge I snap and startle at the slightest thing.  Tears, from the smoke of course, filled my eyes yesterday when I didn’t think I could take it anymore.

     Everywhere I turned people were talking about the smoke and fire.  A person in the store claiming it was the end of the world as he rushed to get his propane tank filled for his wildfire sprinkler. The incessant chatter on the marine radio, the telephone calls and emails all asking about fires.  I was hesitant yet grateful to go to Grand Marais to help coach Abby’s volleyball team.

     As I drove down the Gunflint Trail and away from the large mushroom cloud of smoke from the Pagami Creek Fire another storm was brewing.  This one was much closer with black clouds and bolts of lightning striking the ground.  All I could do was hope for significant rainfall to accompany the lightning so another fire wouldn’t start.

     I was asked in town, "Are you worried about the Pagami Creek Fire?"  "Nope, just worried about another fire starting because of how dry it is."  But before I left for town I made sure John had all of our wildfire sprinklers running just in case.  

     When I exited the gym after volleyball practice smoke filled the sky in Grand Marais.  It was almost so thick you couldn’t see across the school parking lot.  I was irritated the smoke had followed me to town and phoned Voyageur to see how things were going.  

     The reports from the end of the Trail weren’t what I wanted to hear.  A small fire on Seagull had been reported and the GTVFD had been paged.  I quickly drove(below the speed limit) to Seagull Lake Road where the fire had been spotted.  A big CL-215(I believe) flew right over our vehicle as we arrived on scene. 

     GTVFD and USFS fire personnel with trucks, hoses and chainsaws were working on the smaller flames while the air tankers dropped on the larger ones.  The fire was pretty much under control in spite of the gusting winds and the close proximity to a structure.  At first it appeared a tree could have fallen on the power line to ignite it but thoughts are now that it was one of the bolts of lightning delivered from above.  We’ll know sooner or later but it doesn’t really matter.

     The fire burned approximately 5-7 acres last night but crews worked around the clock to secure a perimeter.  Dozers dug up the earth, hose lays were put out and trees were felled.  Foam was sprayed on the road and we visited neighbors to encourage them to turn their wildfire sprinklers on for the night.  

     The temperature cooled down to 40 degrees last night but there is wind in the forecast.  A west wind of 10-20 miles per hour is predicted.  The Gunflint Trail Fire Chief (Mike) is fairly certain the lines will hold the area just fine, no worries.  There will be fire engines on the fire all day and planes available in the sky. 

     And, just in case the lightning hit elsewhere there’s a Type II Fire Team called up to be on standby in Grand Marais.  As for the Pagami Creek Fire the numbers haven’t been confirmed yet. It sounds like folks near Isabella and on the Sawbill Trail have been evacuated as well as hundreds of people paddling in the path of the fire yesterday in the BWCA.  Yesterday morning, Monday, September 12th 11,000 acres had burned but rumors are the acreage could have grown to 70,000 acres yesterday. 

     Here at Voyageur and on the Gunflint Trail it’s business as usual.  Pretty much so anyway with the occassional smoke and ash falling from the sky.  The place is saturated from our wildfire sprinklers and we’ll do a little rain dance later on in hopes of quenching the earth’s thirst.