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Forest Service to stimulate economy with another fire

The Forest Service will apparently attempt to stimulate the local economy by starting more fires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area this fall.
After disastrous decisions in 2011 and earlier this year, the Forest Service is using the 1999 blowdown as justification for four more “prescribed fires.”
These used to be called controlled burns but when the agency continued to lose control, the name was changed to prescribed.
We still don’t know what has changed since the decision was made to pour 1,700 gallons of jellied gasoline on a 135 acre fire up the Fernberg. This monumental SNAFU cost taxpayers $22 million, caused people to be evacuated from their homes and burned over 92,000 acres.
The people responsible for this mess are no longer working here. Screw up at the federal level and you get promoted to somewhere similar to Siberia we hope. Now we have new folks who will hopefully learn from their predecessors’ mistakes.
We don’t have to go back to 2011 to find evidence of fire burning the Forest Service’s best intentions.
In May of this year the agency set fire to land just north of Wolf Lake Road. The goal was 78 acres, the end result was the 1,000 acre Foss Lake fire. Again the taxpayers were soaked and the ground was scorched.
We must not put aside concerns of controlled burns getting out of control. One of the areas the Forest Service is planning to burn this fall, near Crab Lake, is not far from some very nice homes on Burntside Lake. If this one gets away, homes and lives could be lost.
Even Prairie Portage could turn out to be a dangerous fire. With the right winds that fire could roar down the Fernberg and head straight for Ely.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. What we have learned is Mother Nature is not controllable and you can’t prescribe the weather.
The only good thing to have come from these fires is a boost to the local economy. When hundreds of firefighters are brought in after a fire gets out of control, they have to be fed and sheltered. Our local businesses benefitted from these fires, no doubt about it.
With fewer people going into the BWCA, this may be the best economic stimulus the Forest Service can produce, setting the woods on fire.
However, after the July 21 windstorm, we are concerned if another controlled burn jumps the line, the results could be deadly. The Forest Service has been extremely lucky that no lives have been lost.
During the Pagami Creek man-made disaster, six people had to deploy emergency shelters on Lake Insula. The fire swept over them and miraculously they escaped without great physical harm. However, the emotional toll has likely been difficult for these people.
In the next two months we will all be very wary when we see large plumes of smoke in the air. You can prescribe a fire to burn a certain way but we don’t have to look too far back to know the word control can turn out to be meaningless.

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