An internal U. S. Forest Service review of management of the Pagami Creek Fire supports the decision-making and actions of officials charged with fighting the 93,000-acre blaze.
The review — a combination of separate reports on the fire — concluded that the 2011 fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness behaved so unpredictably at a critical juncture in its development that neither computer models nor fire experts could have accurately predicted its movement. It found that all actions and decisions were consistent with firefighting laws, regulations, and policies.
Specifically, the report by James Thomas, the Fire and Emergency Operations Specialist for the USFS’s Eastern Region concluded:
“From the beginning all information indicated this fire to be a good candidate for monitoring within the wilderness based on weather forecasts, normal monthly precipitation averages, time of year and the knowledge of all previous managed fires earlier this season.”
“From August 18-September 11, 2011, and from September 13, 2011, to current, this fire had acted like and resembled the historical fires in the BWCAW.”
“In preparation for the predicted weather on September 12, 2011, there was no specific information, previous fire behavior on this incident, weather forecast or fire weather warnings that were missed or overlooked by the Team or forest leadership that would have predicted the unprecedented movement of the fire on September 12, 2011.”
Thomas also concluded that the August 29 decision to “burn out” a wide swath of forest between Pagami Creek and Lake One using gasoline was the proper decision when compared to fighting the numerous spot fire in the area with firefighters.
In the end, the fire cost $23-million to fight and ended up being the largest forest fire in Minnesota in 75 years.
Read the in-depth Wilderness News story about the Pagami Creek Fire, written last fall, HERE.