Prescribed Burn to Wildfire in the BWCA

A wildfire is burning near Burntside Lake outside of Ely, Minnesota. It began as a prescribed burn conducted by the USFS that turned into a wildfire because it jumped the lines. Dry conditions, warm weather, wind and low humidity have been factors working against the USFS in the effort to suppress the prescribed burn/wildfire they started.

Incident Overview

Foss Lake Fire Update Saturday, May 21, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

MNICS Team C, Brian Pisarek, Incident Commander

Fire Information

Web address:


Phone: 218-208-4544 Location: US Forest Service office, 1393 Hwy 169, Ely, open 8 a.m.–8 p.m.

Size: 1008 acres Containment: 30 percent Fire Start Date: May 19, 2016

Resources: 6 crews, 2 helicopters, 2 engines, 1 water tender, 180 total personnel

Current Situation:

There was little growth on the fire today. Accurate mapping resulted in the large increase in acreage. Crews on the southern half of the fire walked the perimeter with handheld GPS units and aircraft flew the northern half. Crews working north along the east side of the fire installed fire hose along a quarter mile of saw line. Crews on the west side of the fire continued saw-line construction from the wilderness boundary on the south to Clark Lake on the north. Aircraft dropped water on three distinct areas of heat within the fire perimeter on the northeast side and assisted ground crews elsewhere on the fire. Two crews will camp overnight in the wilderness on Crab Lake, eliminating a long morning commute and getting to the fireline early in the morning. Local firefighters from the Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade and Morse/Fall Lake Fire Department continued assessing residences on the west end of Burntside Lake.

Weather and Fire Behavior: Today’s red flag warning expired at 8:00 p.m., but conditions tomorrow will also be hot, dry, and windy. Winds will be from the south and southwest: sustained 10–15 mph, gusts to 25 mph. These high winds will start early and will continue overnight. Fire-behavior analysts say there is potential for significant fire activity tomorrow (for example, single-tree or group-tree torching and some quick fire spread). Smoke might be visible. However, smoke does not necessarily mean the fire is growing larger: smoldering “islands” of unburned fuel within the fire perimeter could burn more actively.

Safety Message: The towns of Ely, Winton, Tower, or Soudan are not threatened. Fire managers are planning for Sunday’s strong winds. Residents on the west side of Burntside Lake should be aware of changing weather conditions.

Closures: Currently, just one BWCAW entry point—Crab Lake entry point #4—is closed; all other entry points remain open. The following BWCAW portages and lakes/rivers, including campsites, are closed:

  • portage Burntside Lake to Crab Lake (entry point #4)
  • portage from Cummings Lake to Korb Lake; portage from Cummings Lake to Korb River
  • lakes and associated portages: Crab, Boulder, Phantom, Battle, Sprite, Meat, Clark, Glimmer, Hassle, Saca, Little Crab, Korb, Maxine, Barefoot, Little Jig, Silaca, Coxey Pond, Lunetta, Schlamn, Soroll, Glenmore, Western, Blick, Chad, Dugout, and Pine.
  • Pine Creek east of Trout Lake
  • portage from Trout Lake to Pine Lake

Closure signs are posted at normal access points to delineate the closure area. The closure order and map are located at

The Forest Service does not currently recommend BWCAW travel

south of Big Moose, Big Rice, and Bootleg Lakes.


Basic Information

Current as of 5/21/2016, 5:54:27 PM
Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Human
Date of Origin Thursday May 19th, 2016 approx. 11:00 PM
Location Near Foss Lake; ~10 miles SW Ely, MN
Incident Commander Brian Pisarek
Incident Description Escaped Prescribed Burn

Current Situation

Total Personnel 180
Size 1,008 Acres
Percent of Perimeter Contained 30%
Estimated Containment Date Wednesday June 01st, 2016 approx. 12:00 AM
Fuels Involved Timber (Grass and Understory)


Planned Actions Secure, anchor, and continue to secure flanks, using aircraft to cool ahead of crews.
Projected Incident Activity When rH and wind activity increases, fire activity will increase in /wilderness. Next 24 hours, Potential for run to the ENE with predicted winds.

Current Weather

Weather Concerns Red Flag warnings today, similar weather conditions forecast tomorrow with a significant shift in wind direction

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