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EDITORIAL: If Pagami is to be discussed, let’s make sure the facts are on the table

We’re coming up on a dozen years since the Pagami Fire burned over 92,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Next up will be a discussion ion the fire will be held in Ely April 13-14 with different folks discussing what was learned and what has changed.

Judging by the news release, the organizers have a few things to learn as well.

First and foremost, this fire could’ve been a minor footnote. That is before the Forest Service used helicopters to spray over 1,700 gallons of jellied gasoline on the fire up the Fernberg.

After the Echo questioned Forest Service officials, the decision makers had to admit this massive mistake, but since then the fact has been covered up and or forgotten. We can’t decide which is worse.

We’d also point out that decision makers nearly killed six Forest Service employees. There were mistakes made and six people were near burned alive. At least for this harrowing incident, the full report on what really happened during the Pagami Creek fire finally came to light five years later.

A report titled “Pagami Creek Fire Entrapments - Facilitated Learning Analysis” along with a video tells how critical mistakes nearly took the lives of six Forest Service fire qualified Wilderness Rangers.

The six were Todd Stefanic, Chris Kinney, Nancy Moundalexis, Andrea Lund, Nancy Hernesmaa and Naomi Weckman.

So, 1,700 gallons were sprayed on a smoldering swamp fire to “really get it going,” six people working for the Forest Service were nearly burned to death and to top it off, taxpayers picked up the tab that was over $23 million.

The Forest Service ignored weather forecasts, drought conditions and common sense in the Pagami Fire debacle. That must be part of the discussion.

To do anything less is to put plans in place to fail again. And this time the faulty decisions could cost lives, property and money. Learn from the past before the past is repeated.

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