John Meyers wrote this for the Duluth News Tribune on Friday, August 17th, 2007.
Northland’s Fire Danger enters record levels
The Northland’s worsening, 14-month drought has pushed U.S. Forest Service fire danger indices into record territory for northern
State and federal wildfire experts use two formulas to determine how dry the forest is and how likely it is to burn.
The Drought Code measures moisture in the first 8 inches of surface soil. When the ground is saturated, the code is zero. Over the past six years, the code has averaged 242 in August, usually a dry month, in the
The drought of 2006-07 is worse than 1976, the year often cited as the worst drought in the past half-century.
This may be the worst drought since the 1930s, although fire danger index data doesn’t go back that far.
“We’re beyond 1995 [another major fire year] and beyond 1976 now, no question,’’ Bogardus-Syzmaniak said.
The other measure, called the Buildup Index, has averaged 39 in August over the past decade. The highest ever recorded before this year in northern
This week at the Seagull Guard Station near the end of the Gunflint Trail the index hit 131.
“Anything over 90, and really strange fire things start to happen. It’s getting very gnarly,’’ Bogardus-Syzmaniak said. “When it’s this low it means marshes are dry, lakes are way low and streams are running dry or low. It means everything is being affected by the drought.’’
This index takes into account any light rain or even dew that might help briefly reduce fire danger. But there has been little of either this summer.
National Weather Service records in
Meanwhile Thursday, state officials said the almost total ban on outdoor fires in
The Duluth Fire Department announced a citywide burning ban Thursday, effective beginning at 8 a.m. today.
The ban in the three counties also takes effect at 8 a.m. today and makes it illegal to have any recreational fire, campfire, charcoal grill or fire, torches, welders, brush pile fires, burn barrel or other open flame anywhere in the three counties — except in municipalities that have not enacted their own bans.
Recreational fires are allowed at campgrounds and residences within one mile of
“We don’t want to ruin people’s fun. But we can’t have any open flame anywhere in the woods right now. No charcoal, no fires period,’’ Berglund said. “Propane stoves are still OK for cooking.’’
The fire ban includes private land, state and county land and federal land in the three counties and will be strictly enforced with citations, officials said.
An out-of-control campfire is blamed for starting the