Boundary Waters fire still burning
A fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness about 12 miles northwest of Ely continued to slowly grow Tuesday. The Cummings Lake fire is now estimated to have burned across about 40 acres, Becca Manlove, spokeswoman for the Kawishiwi Range...
A fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness about 12 miles northwest of Ely continued to slowly grow Tuesday. The Cummings Lake fire is now estimated to have burned across about 40 acres, Becca Manlove, spokeswoman for the Kawishiwi Ranger District of the Superior National Forest, said Tuesday. That's up from an estimated 30 acres Monday.
Some 16 Forest Service personnel were on the ground cutting trees and digging a line around the fire that's burning in a black spruce swamp.
Helicopters and airplanes also may be used to drop water on the fire as needed, Manlove said, but the fact that ground crews are working in the area is a sign the fire isn't considered severe or fast-moving. Winds in the area remained light, helping firefighters get a leg up on the blaze.
A 10-person ground crew from Michigan is expected to be flown into the fire today to relieve local crews so they can be ready to respond quickly to any new fires that are reported.
A severe thunderstorm rumbled through the area early Tuesday evening but it wasn't immediately clear how much rain fell on the fire. The National Weather Service reported a quarter-inch or more in Ely with more rain predicted for today.
While heavy rain can help snuff a fire, lightning without much rain can spur multiple new fires across the unusually dry BWCAW.
It's not clear if the Cummings Lake fire started from lightning or a campfire that spread. Fire experts will check for clues on the origin once the fire is under control.
The BWCAW remains entirely open for canoe travel and camping, but camping is not recommended on nearby Otter Lake because of smoke. So far there are no restrictions on campfires in the area although that could change any day if more rain does not fall.
The Cummings Lake fire, one of several reported across northern Minnesota in recent days, comes one year after the 93,000-acre Pagami Creek fire in the BWCAW. Forest Service officials this summer have directed that most wilderness fires be attacked quickly to avoid taking up valuable resources -- crews, equipment and money -- needed to fight fires closer to developed areas.
But Superior National Forest officials have said the Cummings Lake fire would have been battled even without that temporary directive because conditions are dry. Fire danger across most of the Northland is listed as high, with very high conditions along the Ontario border from Lake County to the North Dakota line.
Meanwhile cooler temperatures -- with highs in the 60s instead of the recent 80s -- are expected by the end of the week, also helping calm fire conditions.
A second, similar-sized fire is burning just across the Canadian border on the north shore of Basswood Lake at Norway Point, adding smoke to the area sky. Other fires were battled Monday near Gheen and Babbitt on state forest land.