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Mid-Gunflint is at 'high risk' of damage from wildfire, prescribed burns scheduled

The Lux Lake Prescribed Fire is scheduled for fall 2019. Image courtesy of US Forest Service
The Lux Lake Prescribed Fire is scheduled for fall 2019. Image courtesy of US Forest Service

The Mid-Gunflint Trail area is at high risk for property loss and other damage should a wildfire erupt in the near future, according to information shared by the US Forest Service during a public meeting Aug. 19 at the Mid-Trail Fire Hall.

To alleviate some of the natural fuels both inside and outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Forest Service is planning a series of prescribed burns in the Mid-Trail area this fall. This information was shared by a collection of US Forest Service staff from both the Gunflint and Tofte districts during a public meeting about fire and fire management on Superior National Forest. In addition to Forest Service staff, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were present, as were about a dozen people who either own property on the Gunflint Trail or were simply curious to learn more on the topics being discussed.

After sharing a plethora of information regarding fire management strategies and tools the Forest Service utilizes in the local forests when it comes to wildfires both inside and outside of the BWCA, the focus of the meeting turned to a series of prescribed burns scheduled to take place sometime between mid-September and mid-October. One of these prescribed burns will be referred to in media reports and by Forest Service personnel as the “Duncan Lake Prescribed Fire.’ This fire will include three units totaling 5,752 acres within the BWCA approximately 22 miles north of Grand Marais.    

For more information on this prescribed fire near Duncan Lake, click here and click here. 

The other prescribed burn scheduled for this fall is just south of Duncan Lake near the Morgan and Ram lakes entry points to the BWCA. This fire will be known as the ‘Lux Lake Prescribed Fire.’ This fire will consist of two units totaling 3,276 acres.

For more information on this prescribed fire, click here and click here. 

Regarding the fact these prescribed burns are taking place inside the federally-protected BWCA, Patty Johnson, the zone fire management officer for both the Gunflint and Tofte districts, said Forest Service managers may ignite a prescribed fire in wilderness to reduce unnatural buildups of fuels. Furthermore, Johnson explained to WTIP, the Forest Service manual containing guidelines for forest management specific to fire states that it is permissible to have a prescribed burn in the BWCA in order to “reduce, to an acceptable level, the risks and consequences of wildfire within wilderness or escaping from wilderness.”

The Forest Service has been authorized, in limited capacity, to use motorized equipment including chainsaws, pumps for water and motor boats inside the BWCA both prior to and during these prescribed burns. Johnson said motorized equipment will only be used as needed, noting that crosscut saws and other non-mechanized equipment is currently being used to prep for the prescribed fires.

In the coming weeks and during the scheduled prescribed burns, WTIP will share information both on the airwaves and online regarding when these fires are burning and where.

To hear more about the meeting at the Mid-Trail Fire Hall Aug. 19, below is a discussion between WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs and Rhonda Silence.