As BWCAW Fire Slows, Recriminations Flare

After a second day in which weather conditions allowed a growing team of firefighters to hold ground against the fire burning in the Boundary Waters, frustration over the Forest Service’s initial response to the blaze has flared.

The StarTribune has the story HERE.

Some local residents are angered that the Forest Service, which manages the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, didn’t douse the Pagami Creek Fire when it was a small, smoldering fire. Some local residents claim the toppled trees from the 1999 blowdown, which were not logged or otherwise removed, created explosive conditions for fire.

In keeping with its policy to allow naturally-caused fires in the wilderness to burn, if the fires don’t risk lives or property, the USFS focused on building fire-lines to the north of the blaze to protect residences on the Fernberg Road. When strong northwesterly winds whipped up earlier this week, the fire raced to the south, threatening the town of Isabella and burning 101,000 acres so far.

U.S. Representative Chip Cravaack stepped into the controversy yesterday, pledging to change federal law to allow firefighters to extinguish blazes in the federally protected wilderness immediately.

Area residents and officials continue to fear a resurgence to the fire. Weather forecasts for the area call for warmer, windier conditions this weekend. Fire crews, now led by a special management team from the northern Rocky Mountains, are building fire defenses on the southern edges of the fire, in an effort to protect Isabella, and to the fire’s north, in hopes of stopping the fire before it reaches concentrations of blowdown timber deep in the BWCAW.

The Duluth News Tribune, HERE, and Minnesota Public Radio, HERE, have stories featuring the fire crews.

Up-to-date information on the fire can be found, HERE, at the fire’s incident information system web site.

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