Ham Lake Fire May 25, 2007
5/25 business as usual?
Some of you have asked how Voyageur is after the Ham Lake Fire. A wildfire is an amazing force with a mind of its own. It is unpredictable and relies on many variables to determine how and where it will burn. Many times a structure will survive the initial flashover only to burn much later due to sometimes preventable circumstances.
Fire Wise is a program that was implemented on the Gunflint Trail after the blowdown in 1999. Their mission is to identify areas of risk to wildfires and to develop strategies to reduce that risk. Assessments were made on properties, a grant for sprinkler systems was available and information was distributed in order to help protect homes in case of a wildfire on the Gunflint Trail. Many existing homeowners and cabin owners took advantage of one or all of these opportunities and made their property Fire Wise.
Some people did as much as they could to make sure their property would survive a wildfire. They cleared trees on and around their structures, they kept their gutters and roofs free of debris, they stored their firewood away from their cabin, installed sprinkler systems and followed the FireWise protocol to a tee. Other property owners wanted to keep the northwoods charm of their cabin in tact. They left branches overhanging their roofs and driveways, they didn’t prune their bushes and trees or close in their soffit or fascia, they used wood siding, left down dead wood near their structures and didn’t install a sprinkler system. Some people did a little of this and a little of that and got lucky and others did not.
As a member of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department we saw first hand how being FireWise helped protect structures. If a sprinkler system was installed properly and was fully functional for an adequate duration of time then the structure most likely survived. If a property had an open area under their cabin where sparks or the fire could crawl then it most likely burned down. Some people did everything right and their cabin still burned down others did everything wrong and got lucky.
On a plane ride the other day I was able to take a photo of our place to show you how the fire made it’s way around Voyageur. The property across the river was luckily untouched. On the lodge side of the Seagull River you can see how far the sprinklers reached. Our neighbor to the South or on the right side of the photo had sprinklers running. Our canoes and four employee cabins did not have sprinkler systems running on them. The area around the cabins was not cleared, the cabins were open underneath and the soffit and faschia were not finished; all four of them burned.
As owners of Voyageur we did a few things right and were very lucky. When the fire roared over our place we lost four employee cabins, Don and Marilyn’s storage shed and its contents, Theresa’s belongings and some other replaceable items. No lives were lost and no one was severely injured. We’re so sorry for those who lost their property and belongings and so very thankful to still have ours.