U.S. Forest Service projections about the nature of the Pagami Creek Fire repeatedly underestimated the explosiveness of the blaze, according to a story based on official internal reports.
Find the StarTribune story HERE.
The story, by Tony Kennedy, describes how at critical junctures in the development of the blaze, which consumed nearly 93,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and adjacent Superior National Forest land, forecasts of how quickly the fire could spread repeatedly underestimated the fire’s potential to grow.
On September 4, as firefighters were using jellied gasoline to create a firebreak to protect properties on the Fernberg Road north of the fire, their forecast models did not project the fire to become larger than the historical average. On September 8, the story says, officials chose to remove some firefighters from the blaze and chose not to contain the fire’s southern edge.
Two days later, on September 10, the fire raced south, opening a long fire front on the eastern edge of the fire and prompting Forest Service officials to make full containment of the fire their new goal. A forest fuels specialist projected the likely advance of the fire the next day. District Ranger Mark Van Every doubled that area. On the next day, September 12, the fire raced across 16 miles of forest, outpacing even the doubled projection.
During the September 12 run, two campers and six Forest Service workers were threatened by the rushing flames. A public review of the incident involving the six Forest Service workers is ongoing.
As reported, the cost of fighting the Pagami Creek Fire has been estimated at $22.3 million.