John Ek and Whelp fires continue to burn in the Boundary Waters
The John Ek Fire near Little Saganaga Lake doubled in size Monday afternoon.
Fires continued to burn in more remote parts of the Superior National Forest in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Tuesday evening.
The John Ek Fire, about 2.5 miles south of Little Saganaga Lake from John Ek Lake to the southeast corner of Elton Lake, grew to an estimated 1,500 acres Monday afternoon, according to a U.S. Forest Service news release. Sustained, gusty and erratic winds contributed to the fire growth and smoke made it difficult to gauge its growth. Forest Service officials had previously estimated its growth to 3,000 acres due to its irregular burn pattern and smoke in the area obstructing the view.
The Whelp Fire, caused by lightning five miles northwest of Sawbill Lake, was estimated to be 60 acres Tuesday. Fire growth Monday was a result of sustained winds.
No firefighting crews have been sent directly to these fires due to difficult access, limited aircraft resources and safety concerns, according to the Forest Service. However, aircraft have conducted water drops on the fires to help slow the growth.
On Monday, Forest Service officials issued a preevacuation notice to residents from the Seagull end to the south end of Loon Lake on the Gunflint Trail. There remains no evacuation order in place, but residents were notified to be ready in case one comes. In case of an evacuation order, residents are encouraged to turn on a sprinkler system if they have one, pack up important items such as medications and pets and gather valuables. If residents choose to preevacuate, they are asked to stop in at the YMCA in Grand Marais to check in with law enforcement so they have an accurate count of residents in the area.
The entire BWCAW is closed due to the threat of fires. The closure began Saturday and will last at least one week. The Forest Service continues to sweep the area to notify visitors that they must leave.