8/16/21 – It’s been some time since we had any fire news to report in this area, which was nice while it lasted. As of this morning, there are two fires now burning in the Tofte Ranger District (more details on those fires below). Of note, there are no closures in our area at this time, and there is no imminent threat to anyone canoe tripping in our area. It is hard to overstate how dry things are up here though, and the reality is that there is quite a bit of fire season still ahead of us this summer and fall. If you are in the BWCA and a closure is issued for the area you are in, Wilderness Rangers will paddle through and contact you.
At this time, we are recommending that folks avoid doing the Louse River route. The Whelp Fire (details below) has the potential to grow into that area, and given the low water conditions travel is very difficult along that route, making re-routes and possible evacuations difficult.
The following updates are from the Forest Service as of the evening of August 15th:
John Elk Fire: Detected late on August 14, the John Elk Fire was started with a lightning strike. It is in a remote area 2.5 miles south of Little Saganaga Lake in the Wilderness on the Tofte Ranger District. No fire-fighting crews have been sent in due to difficult access, limited helicopter resources and safety concerns. A helicopter with water drops is being used to knock down flames and limit the spread. It is currently two-acres. On August 15th, a 2 person wilderness ranger crew paddled in from Little Sag to make contact with BWCAW permittees to inform them on the Joh Elk Fire, and update them on fire conditions.
Whelp Fire: The Whelp Fire is another lightning-caused fire that was detected late on August 14th. It is four miles west/northwest of Sawbill Lake. Similar to the John Elk Fire, this fire is in a remote area of the Wilderness on the Tofte Ranger District. No fire-fighting crews have been sent in due to difficult access, limited helicopter resources and safety concerns. Aircraft will perform water drops to suppress this fire as we continue to gather information. On August 16th, a 2-person wilderness ranger crew will paddle the Louse River to contact permittees near the Whelp Fire. It is currently five-acres.
The other big fire making the news right now is, thankfully, further away from us. The Greenwood Fire was detected on August 15th near Greenwood Lake on the Laurentian Ranger District. It is approximately 15 miles SW of Isabella (the town.) The fire is moving very quickly due to strong gusts of wind and dry vegetation and is estimated to be several hundred acres. Fire crews are suppressing the fire on the ground and from the air. The McDougal Recreation Area is closed, including the McDougal Lake Campground.
We’ll keep you posted on any updates as we receive them.