Sunday, September 17, 2006

Latest Fire Raises More Questions

The Famine Lake wild fire along with the Redeye Fire when discovered were both small 1-5 acre blazes. The Famine Lake fire was located north of Brule Lake and west of the Cones and the Redeye fire south east of Winchell Lake. Both were started from lighting strikes from a storm that went through the area on the night of September 6 or 7th. According to fire officials initially the two fires were aggressively fought with water drops. Unfortunately this initially attack lasted only a short time before the water bombers were diverted to other duties. Granted there were other demands on the planes. However, these two fires were still small and if the planes had remained longer there was at least a good chance they could have been put down just as the other small fires in the area were.

After the initial attack, it was next decided to adopt a strategy for the Famine and Redeye fires to "monitor and confine the fire to natural barriers." The reasoning was that these two fires were in remote areas of the BWCA. However given the extreme dry condition of the forest and the prediction by NOAA of "red flag" wind conditions arriving after Thursday, Sept. 14th, the Forest Service's strategy again of course failed just as similar tactics had failed in the Alpine and Cavity Lake fires.

On Friday (September 15) and Saturday the wind hit and the two fires exploded and start to move north by northwest toward the Gunflint Trail. Saturday at about one-thirty P.M. the Cook County Sheriff fearing the Famine Lake fire might soon spread to the Gunflint Trail, called for an evacuation of the Gunflint from the end of the old Gunflint Trail road to the narrows on Gunflint Lake. At that point no one seems to know just where the fires were. According to fire officials speaking the next day at the fire information session the fire never reached the "trigger line" which had been set to declare any evacuation. As for the evacuation some residents and guests heeded the sheriff but many others did not and stayed.

A fire map distributed by the Forest Service entitled "Current East Zone Fire Locations, Superior National Forest 9/13/06," The Famine and Redeye fires were first spotted on 9/8/06. It was not until 9/11/06 that additional fires were spotted in the Forest. If this was the case why was the fire fighting attack on these first two fires prematurely called off if at that time they were the only two fires the fire fighters had to contend with? Or was the information fire officials were distributing incorrect and the fire actually were spotted at a later date.

Whether the Famine and Redeyes fires were spotted on September 9 or at a later date according to fire officals there was an initial attack by air on these fires. The question remains- why, given the extreme dryness of the forest and the prediction of heavy winds, did the Forest Service call off this initial attack on these two fires? Or why did the Forest Service even bother to waste the initial water drops on the Famine and Redeye fires anyways if they were not going to bother to get these fires under control in the first place?


At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was kind of neat to be at the meetings and watch what seemed to be so many different agencies working together to solve this situation and the good effort our local people have put in. That being said, what you have said makes a lot of sense. The weather forecast and the dry conditions were there all along and if the planes were in there it makes sense to finish the job before things got out of hand. Now there is so much worry and inconvenience for cabin owners and residents in the evacuation area and so much loss of income for businesses in that area that maybe could have been avoided and who knows when the evacuation will be lifted. The affected areas are also beautiful, heavily trafficked areas of the BWCA. Winchell and Gaskin are very popular. We camped on Gaskin a few years back and Long Island is very popular. We took our whole family on a canoe trip there last year and stayed on that big island at the east end of the lake. It looks like the lakeshore on that whole east end has burned but that maybe that beautiful big island that we enjoyed so much has not yet burned. We are certainly hoping it remains OK and that the fire is able to be controlled and that the evacuation can be lifted soon and residents and businesses can go on with their normal lives and that all involved in any decision making have learned from the situation.

It is good to be able to hear all sides of these situations


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