BWCA closures expanding to west; USFS, DNR install fire bans

A new closure in the BWCA west of Basswood to Crane Lake is in place as of July 17. There are currently seven wildfires burning in Quetico Provincial Park with the potential to spread into the Crooked Lake travel corridor and beyond Crooked and Iron Lakes, into more heavily visited areas of the Wilderness. Fire managers have identified two fires with a serious potential to spread across the border. Recent reconnaissance flights have indicated an increase in fire behavior with Canada’s fires, despite the lighter winds; fuels in this area are pre-heating and becoming more volatile. Closures will remain in place until fires in this region no longer pose a risk to the public. Visitor and firefighter safety is the number one priority during a closure due to wildfire.

Locally, northern Minnesota is in a moderate-severe drought. Hot and very dry conditions add to the fire staff challenges. Nationally, the Preparedness Level went to the highest level, level 5. This means that several geographic areas are experiencing major incidents, agency fire resources are very short, and 550 crews have committed nationally to the wildfire effort For example, multiple crews and resources were ordered at both the state and national level for the Delta Lake Fire. Two, 20-person hotshot crews and numerous other resource requests for both equipment and staff were unfillable.

 Blandin Trail - Entry Point #11
 Little Vermilion Lake (Crane Lake) - Entry Point #12
 Lac La Croix - Entry Point #12A
 Herriman Trail - Entry Point #13
 Little Sioux River (north) - Entry Point #14
 Sioux-Hustler Trail - Entry Point #15
 Moose/Portage River NORTH - Entry Point #16
 Stuart River - Entry Point #19
 Angleworm Lake - Entry Point #20
 Angleworm Lake Trail - Entry Point #21
 Mudro Lake – Entry Points 22 and 23 of course remain closed
 Lac la Croix -Entry Point #71 into and out of Canada
 South Hegman Lake - Entry Point #77

 All trails, campsites, portages and lakes that are accessed by the closed entry points listed above, including but not limited to - Loon Lake, Lac la Croix, Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Oyster Lake, Shell Lake, Hustler Lake, Sterling Lake, Ramshead Lake, Lake Agnes, Sterling Lake, White Feather Lake, Chippewa Lake, Gun Lake, Jackfish Lake, Lake Agnes, Fourtown Lake, Horse Lake
 All zones of the Sundial Pristine Management Area (1 through 5) and the Weeny Pristine Management Area. The Tick Pristine Management Area remains closed.

BWCAW entry point Mudro Lake (#22, #23) & campsites in the Iron Lake and Crooked Lake Corridors closed on July 17 because of wildfires in Quetico Provincial Park and travel time to leave if conditions worsen.

With tinder dry conditions in the woods, and the Delta Fire burning in a remote area next to the BWCA, the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota DNR have clamped down on allowing recreational fires.
Due to dry conditions, fire activity, and limited resources, the Forest Service has prohibited campfires on the Superior National Forest including the BWCA.
Kawishiwi District Ranger Aaron Kania said the make up of the Delta Fire triggered the need for a Type 2 team to be brought in to manage the 65-acre fire.
“With the Delta Fire it’s the potential for what could happen. We’re in historic fire conditions and we want to make sure we have enough resources here,” said Kania.
Just getting to the Delta Fire is a challenge. The fire is in a remote area south of Snowbank Lake and it’s tough country.
“We’re having to hike in and it’s really difficult terrain, it’s steep and rocky and swampy,” said Kania. “That’s why we need this team and they’re all on foot.”
With support staff there’s 162 people assigned to the fire along with several helicopters and bombers. Kania said the aircraft are being used if there are flames or if the fire becomes more active.
“Having people on the ground limits the aircraft but we do have two helicopters that can be more surgical to put water on the hot spots,” said Kania.
The Delta Fire was listed as being 5% contained on Thursday but the Forest Service was also expecting to have a hose line around the perimeter completed.
“The containment line around the Delta Lake fire is likely to be completed, including pumps and fire hose around the perimeter.”
The news release also states:
“The Delta Lake Fire continues to be the primary active fire within the West Zone Complex. It is burning predominantly on private and National Forest System lands, bumping up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in a thicket of waist- to chest-high blowdown that hampers firefighter access. Firefighting resources are working to establish a containment line around the 65-acre fire to prevent its spread.”
The DNR has included Lake and St. Louis County in counties where burning restrictions are in place.
The two agencies orders are similar with exceptions for campfires in an established fire ring associated with a home, cabin, campground or resort.
Linda Gormanson, burning permit coordinator, said the ongoing drought has created perilous midsummer conditions for wildfires.
“The nearly 1,500 wildfires that have occurred in Minnesota since March are more than we typically see in an entire year,” Gormanson said. “We want people to keep recreating and enjoying the outdoors, but in ways that reduce the risk of igniting a wildfire.”
Last year was dry as well but the area received over an inch of rain in mid-July. Through July 11 of this year, the Ely area has received 7.11 inches of rain. The last significant rainfall was June 21.
The Forest Service is battling a 65-acre fire in a remote area off the end of the Fernberg south of Snowbank Lake.
The Delta Fire has caused BWCA entry point closured for the Kekekabic Trail. BWCA campsites, portages and lakes closed include Parent, Disappointment, Jitterbug, Ahsub, Becoosin, Benezie, Adventure, Rifle, Bridg and Fire.
Just across the border in Canada are fires in the Quetico Park:
• A 1,600 acre fire is burning between Crooked and Roland lakes.
• A 926 acre fire is burning between Ted, Milt and Hurn lakes.
• A 1,865 acre fire is burning between Robinson, Cecil and Tuck lakes.
• There are two fires, a 1,729 acre and a 254 acre fire burning by Burt Lake.
These fires are very remote and are listed as “being observed.” With the Canadian border still closed, the Quetico Park is not open to U.S. citizens. The southwest portion of the park was closed to visitors on July 12.
On the Superior National Forest, campfires are allowed in approved fire structures that have been installed and maintained by the Forest Service in the campgrounds.
The DNR lists the following rules in the areas affected by the restrictions:
• No campfires are allowed for dispersed, remote, or backcountry camping on all lands;
• Campfires are allowed only in an established fire ring associated with a home, cabin, campground, or resort;
• No fireworks may be ignited on any public or private land outside city limits (check with your municipality for any restrictions within city limits); and
• Burning permits will not be issued for brush or yard waste, nor will existing permits be activated.
The burning restrictions will remain in effect until terminated by the DNR commissioner when weather and environmental conditions indicate a significant reduction in fire danger. Tribal nations regulate open burning for their communities.
The burning restrictions mean campfires are not allowed for dispersed campers at 40 state forests, and backcountry campfires are not allowed at 26 state parks and recreation areas – even if the backcountry campsite has a fire ring. Camping stoves are permitted.