Ham Lake Fire May 15th 2007
It’s hard to imagine a fire that started on Ham Lake traveled all of the way to Saganaga, but it did. We know that because we have seen one of the many paths of destruction, the end of the Gunflint Trail. We keep re-playing the events of that Sunday in our minds, hoping for a different outcome. I keep thinking I will wake up from this nightmare only to be amazed at how life-like it was. The alarm clock can go off any time now.
Last night I was visiting a cemetery searching for a grave stone of a friend of mine who died in High School. I was having a difficult time reading the headstones when suddenly I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, the grass on the hillside of the cemetery had started on fire. I looked for equipment to put it out and finally found a bucket and some water. I threw the water at the fire only to have it ignite as if I had thrown gasoline on it. The person I was with said, “That’s an oil fire, you can’t put it out with water, it will just make it spread.” Then I began my frantic search for baking powder to put out the kitchen oil that was on fire at the cemetery, far away from any kitchen. My alarm clock did go off then and I woke up. I’m waiting for the second alarm to go off.
I took a boat ride out to Saganaga today to survey the scene. As I had said before fire had burned in places on the east side of the channel going out to Saganaga. It is spotty until the fire reached James Bay where it appeared to have burned hot. Farther north on Camper’s Island the northern tip of the island was scorched as well as one of the 7 Sisters Islands on the way to Canada. The shoreline was burned in places as we headed toward Sag Falls. Some of the islands and campsites were burned as well as Conner’s Island. We made our way back toward Red Pine Island that had suffered some burning too. Unfortunately this is where we found the charred remains of our friend’s property. What another tragedy. So far Sagonto, Chippewa Inn and Irv’s place are all ok, with changing winds it may be a different story for properties on Saganaga, we will continue to say our prayers.
Today’s weather is favorable. The winds are light, the humidity high and it has been drizzling all day long. This is letting crews get in to really get some work done and we are very thankful to Mother Nature. If all goes well today and tomorrow then people who own property at the end of the Trail will be allowed to re-enter the area for a brief visit to their property. There will be a short safety meeting at 11:30 AM on Thursday the 17th of May and then one vehicle per property will be allowed to head up the Gunflint Trail to survey their dwellings. All people will need to check in and out at Fire Hall #1 or the road block and they must be out by 4:00 PM. I’m hoping maybe some of the Canadian homeowners coud get to their property too. We shall see.
I can’t keep my eyes open any longer so I’m going to try to take a nap. Hopefully when I wake up I will realize this has all been a bad dream.