Gull Lake Fire
Of course someone had to re-name the, "I Smell Smoke Fire" to the Gull Lake Fire. Go figure. How original. I would be more upset about them not choosing my name for it had it been bigger and more newsworthy, but I guess I will just have to get over it.
If the Ham Lake Fire felt like an eternity then the Gull Lake Fire felt like a blink of the eye. It was over and done with before we even knew what had happened. After the announcement by our neighbor about seeing flames on Gull Lake both Mike and Don disappeared. I yelled something about our sprinkler systems but it of course fell onto deaf ears.
I grabbed two of my Voyageur Crew members to show them how to start fire pumps. A quick lesson on ours and with water flying they went to turn on other pumps. I headed toward the fire in a tow boat and quickly saw the flames. Deja vu, The nightmare was right in front of me, again.
After seeing the houses that survived the Ham Lake Fire had their sprinkler systems running I continued to the Thompson/Testor island. These properties were in closest proximity to the fire and I knew they had sprinkler systems. I quickly got their pump running and headed toward Brown’s cabin which I knew also had a sprinkler system. Somewhere along the line I picked up my crew member Andy and we continued to get sprinkler systems going along with Michael Valentini and other Voyageur Crew members.
I headed back to the fire around 2:55 pm and saw Mike and Dan Fitzgerald at work. I think someone must have went to get our fire engine from Hall 3 because Mike, Dan Fitzgerald, and I think Don were busy getting a hose lay out next to the fire and were getting ready to spray water. There were also a couple of people from Arrowhead Electric there to make sure power to the lines was off and that any trees close to the power line were cut down.
Andy and I were sent to the Trail’s End Campground landing to retrieve more hose and parts. Two more engines were in route with more pumps and hose and after we dropped off equipment with Mike and Dan we went back to meet the engines. The GTVFD has a couple of fire boats and volunteers had loaded them with all of the necessary equipment.
Bob Baker, John Silliman, Dave Tuttle, Mark Darling, Steve Anderson, Dan Bauman and Kara Genthoff, were all on scene and ready to go with the fire boats. We led them to the fire and they quickly got another system started with hoses ready to spray. We sprayed the perimeter and used Pulaskis and shovels to dig up the duff around the permiter to keep the fire from spreading. Bob used the chainsaw to cut down burning trees and any hazardous snags. The volunteers worked efficiently like a fine tuned motor. I guess practice makes perfect, and we know we have had more than enough practice this year.
The flames were quickly doused and very little smoke could be seen by around 4:00 pm. There was a USFS person by the name of Mike on scene and he told us the Forest Service would be taking over. Before long a boat of firefighters arrived with their own hoses and pumps and we began the tedious process of rolling up our hoses. Some had holes burned through them from getting too hot, those we didn’t have to roll!
We loaded up the boats and headed back to the landing to unload them and load them back onto their trailers. Without the threat of the fire spreading we were all able to let out a big sigh of relief.
The cause of the fire was said to be from a snag falling onto the power line earlier during the day. The end of the Trail was without power for about an hour when the fire started. It must have produced a spark and ignited the surrounding forest. That explained why Arrowhead Electric was so quick on the scene.
My guess at the size of the fire was 1 acre. Others guessed 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre and the USFS is unofficially calling it an acre at this time. They also said a Beaver made a few drops of water onto the fire; I know I saw a plane flying overhead but I don’t remember seeing it drop any water. Mike assures me it did. The USFS also said the fire was reported by a USFS Crew on Seagull Lake around 2:45 pm; I don’t know if my call was even reported… No matter, the short lived Gull Lake Fire is out and I can rest peacefully knowing it was a spark from the power line and not something leftover in the duff from the Ham Lake Fire that ignited it.
Perhaps the biggest save of the day came towards the end of the GTVFD firefighting efforts when we were packing up. It was then when I made history by taking one for the team to save the fire boat from the perils of Gull Lake. It had drifted at least 5 feet away from the shore and even though there was another boat right there I risked my dry clothes to swim out after the boat and bring it safely back to shore. Had I not been so brave someone would have had to start up the other boat to go and get it, wasting precious gas and energy. From that moment on I will be forever remembered as the Hero of the I Smell Smoke Fire.
Please don’t tell anyone, but the real reason I went after the boat was because it was over 80 degrees outside and I felt like I was going to die of heat stroke from working with the Pulaski and lugging the hose around. Let’s just let this be a little secret between me and you, my one loyal blog reader.