Wildfires that occur within the blowdown will have the potential to become plume-dominated fires that are driven by extreme fire behavior, creating more challenges for fire-fighters and extreme hazards for anyone in the vicinity of such fires.
According to the Forest Service fire experts, plume-dominated fires create their own weather, potentially including smoke columns reaching 30,000 to 50,000 feet high; strong in drafts on the fire perimeter that can quickly change to downdrafts of as much as 40 miles per hour; fire whirls along the fire perimeter; high rates of fire spread; and development of spot fires up to 3 or more miles away from the main fire.
If you are traveling in areas that were heavily impacted by the 1999 blowdown, which is primarily central and eastern portions of the BWCAW, you need to be extra vigilant about preventing fires, as well as prepared to respond if a fire does occur near you. If you see or smell smoke, don't panic.
The Forest Service recommends that you follow these steps:
a new plan
The Forest Service has approved prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads in an effort to prevent an extreme wildfire from engulfing large areas inside or outside the BWCAW. The prescribed burns should be completed by the end of 2007. The total area burnt within the BWCAW will be about 75,000 acres (almost 120 square miles).
The most significant burns within the Boundary Waters will be near the end of the Gunflint Trail, mostly south and west of Seagull Lake and extending all the way down toward Tuscarora Lake. In addition, various pockets of smaller fires will be scattered through the most heavily impacted areas of blow down between Ely and the end of the Gunflint Trail. Most of these fires will be large broadcast burns, typically initiated with burning material ejected from helicopters.
The area south of Seagull Lake to Tuscarora Lake was very heavily impacted by the windstorm of 1999, and much of this area has been the subject of the prescribed burns by the Forest Service in 2002 and 2003. The forest on the west side of Magnetic Lake was burned by a prescribed fire in September, 2002. The forest in the general vicinity of Jap Lake east of Seagull was burnt in the Honker Lake prescribed burn of 2003, and extended from Jap Lake, down around Glassy and Elusion Lakes to Glee Lake, and then over toward Bingshick and Honker.
In the far eastern BWCAW a series of much smaller burns are being conducted, mostly on a smaller scale of "fuel patch burns" to remove under story material without destroying the canopy-forming trees. Areas in which you may see the remains of such fires are along the southwest end of Pine Lake, plus the area around Duncan, Douglas, and Rose Lakes.
Some prescribed burns will also occur in the western BWCAW. The area around Crab Lake was generally only modestly impacted by the wind storm of 1999. However, there were sufficient downed trees that the Forest Service has planned a series of small scale prescribed burns on the southwest side of Crab, extending down toward Clark, Saca, and Battle Lakes. The area around the Little Indian Sioux River south of the Echo Trail is also scheduled for limited prescribed burns.
©2005 Exploring the Boundary Waters and Daniel Pauly. All rights reserved.