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Island fire on Saganaga Lake nearly 'a major disaster'

A fire July 8 on Saganaga Lake. Photo by Dewey Pihlman
A fire July 8 on Saganaga Lake. Photo by Dewey Pihlman

A fire erupted July 8 on an island in the northeast arm and Canadian side of Saganaga Lake. The fire occurred on Browns Island.

It is believed that a smoldering piece of charcoal from a BBQ started the fire. There is one private residence on the island.

Reports of the fire came at approximately 12:30 p.m. July 8. At the time of the fire the property owners of the lone cabin on Browns Island had left. They had a BBQ the day before the fire sparked to life, meaning the coals were still hot from the previous day.

In response to the fire, more than a dozen people who live near on or near Lake Sag at the end of the Gunflint Trail took to action. According to reports shared with WTIP, several people loaded boats with pumps, hoses, ropes, buckets and tools and sped to the scene. As people arrived, flames were already moving between crowns of the red and white pines that cover the island, according to the report.

Responders set up pumps at three locations on the south side of the island and began to attack the flames. Responders were able to put the flames out and then spent several more hours soaking hot spots and making sure there would be no more flare ups in the wind that was still blowing.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Matt Ritter about the fire. Ritter is the manager of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and one of the individuals who responded to the fire on Sag Monday afternoon. The audio of their conversation is shared below.

In addition to Ritter, the following people contributed to stopping the fire which, considering the dry condition of the woods and the significant winds, would have soon jumped to the mainland and roared to a major disaster, according to the report shared with WTIP:

-Eric Johnson

-Susan Weber

-Beaver Cohen

-Tom Capron

-Dick and Becky Kayser

-Tom and Laura Savor and their son and daughter

-Lenore Danielson and her granddaughter, Carrie

-Dee Siliciano

-Liz Etnier

-Christine Justice

-Steve, Monica and Nick Bultena

-Matt Ritter and another Voyaguers staff member

-Dewey Philbin

-Dick Powell