Not All Fires in the BWCA are Created Equally

     I’ve been somewhat surprised by the amount of attention the Pagami Creek Fire in the BWCA near Ely, MN has received.  It’s a very small fire burning in the middle of nowhere not threatening any structures yet there are over 100 personnel on the fire. 

     The Pagami Fire is 15 miles east of Ely and prevailing winds are from the west.  The Pagami Fire Report says they want to keep the fire inside the BWCA and away from the heavily used Lake One and Lake Two area so they are going to do a burn out.  The USFS knew exactly what day the lightning struck, got on the fire immediately and have treated the fire like a major incident.

     I’m thinking back to last year’s Lizard Lake Fire near the Gunflint Trail.  It was also from a lightning strike but it wasn’t detected until smoke was seen from the Gunflint Trail.  The USFS has the same lightning monitoring equipment on both sides of the forest yet the information wasn’t handled the same way.  In fact, the Lizard Lake Fire was basically ignored even though it grew quickly to 45 acres and was probably even closer to structures than the Pagami Fire. 

     I find it interesting how different the response to the two fires has been.  Is it because folks in the Gunflint District have so much experience with fire?  Did the folks in Ely freak out?  Is there more money in one budget to work on prescribed burns?  Do firefighters need overtime? Questions are being asked, think we’ll ever know the answers? 


TODAY’S MESSAGE: The Interagency Management Team is prepared to conduct a firing operation on the east side of the fire when conditions become favorable. Reducing the fuels in this area will reduce the potential for the fire to spread outside the Wilderness boundary and threaten private properties to the north or to threaten the heavily-used Lake One and Lake Two areas. This planned burn-out is part of a long term strategy.


· Keep the fire within the Wilderness

· Maintaining safety of the public and firefighters

· Provide safe access for Wilderness visitors while allowing the fire to serve its role in the ecology of the Wilderness.

ACTIVITES: Pending acceptable weather for the burn-out, crews will continue to monitor the fire and continue with mop-up at the north end of the fire. Safety crews will continue to contact and inform Wilderness travelers. The sprinkling system along the portages between Lakes One and Two is complete. By the end of today the sprinkler system along Rock Island Portage will be in place and ready for use.

OUTLOOK: Very little rain was received on the fire yesterday. Predicted drying trends may provide a window for the firing operation in the near future.

There are no imminent threats to public safety or private properties. There are no closures in place at this time. Wilderness travelers can expect a brief delay in portaging between Lakes One and Two during the firing operation. Visitors are asked to stay off Pagami Creek and to stay clear of the fire area.

DATE OF DETECTION: August 18, 2011

CAUSE: Lightning

CURRENT SIZE: 130 acres actually burned

LOCATION: Township 63 N, Range 9 W, Sections 30, 31, 32: approximately 14 miles east of Ely (within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) in the Pagami Creek area between the South Kawishiwi River, Clearwater Lake, and Lake One.

AGENCY: Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Ranger District

STATUS: Fire activity has moderated due to high humidity and low winds.

SMOKE CONDITIONS: Depending on wind directions, visitors may see and smell smoke.

RESOURCES: Minnesota Interagency Incident Management Team B is managing the fire with approximately 103 personnel. Public safety crews are in place to provide contact with Wilderness visitors.