Prescribed Fire Runs Wild Near Burntside Lake

Foss Lake Fire seen from Highway 169 (Photo courtesy April Emery Cornish)
Foss Lake Fire seen from Highway 169 (Photo courtesy April Emery Cornish)

A fire on the Superior National Forest is burning out of control north of Burntside Lake after it escaped containment lines yesterday. The fire was lit by Forest Service crews to reduce forest fuels and improve jackpine habitat. Windy, dry conditions allowed it to escape the planned area of 78 acres and it quickly grew to about 1,000 acres. It has now been classified as a wildfire and dubbed the Foss Lake Fire.

“The fire is moving aggressively,” Forest Service spokesperson Rebecca Manlove told the Timberjay.

Boundary Waters wilderness entry point #4, Crab and Cummings Lake via Burntside Lake, and the surrounding area is closed to the public until further notice.

Eighty people and eight aircraft are working to contain the fire. As of this afternoon, the Lone Peak Hotshots crew of firefighters from Utah had been deployed to work on the fire.

“There is no threat to the towns of Ely, Winton, Tower or Soudan,” the Superior National Forest reports. “No structures are threatened. Good fuel reduction work completed in the last two years on Burntside increases firefighters ability to manage the eastern edge.”

The weather forecast for the next few days calls for conditions that could help the fire grow and spread. Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner writes, “My spidey weather senses don’t like the looks of where this fire is, or the fire weather conditions the next few days. I am familiar with this area west of Burntside Lake. With southerly winds the next few days, this fire has the potential to grow and move north into the popular Crab Lake area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It also could threaten the west side of beautiful Burntside Lake if it is not contained.”

Huttner says light winds from the south and west will continue for a couple days, but then increase significantly on Sunday as a front approaches. Gusts could reach 30 mph out of the south-southwest, and the air will be warm and dry. No rain is expected before next week.

A community meeting about the fire will be held tonight at the Vermilion Community College in Ely, starting at 7 p.m. Updates will be posted on the fire’s Inciweb website.

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