Two 20-person Minnesota wildland firefighting crews assigned to Idaho

MNICS Crew #3 firefighters met at MIFC July 26.  The crew will stage at Boise, Idaho.

MNICS Crew #3 met at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center July 26 on their way to Boise, Idaho.

MNICS Crew #4 firefighters gathered at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center on July 26 on their way to Idaho.

MNICS Crew #4 firefighters gathered at MIFC.

As fire activity increases in the western United States, firefighters from around the country are helping the wildland firefighting effort. The Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) sent two additional 20-person initial attack wildland firefighting crews to Boise, Idaho.

The two Minnesota crews left the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) in Grand Rapids  on July 26 and are now in Idaho. The crews are at the Boise Staging Area waiting for an assignment to a fire per the National Interagency Fire Center.

Minnesota crews are interagency groups of trained wildland firefighters. Members are from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the US Forest Service (USFS) Superior and Chippewa National forests, Voyageurs’ National Park, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Minnesota Agency, Grand Portage, and Fond du Lac.

The crews will be on assignment for approximately two weeks. Minnesota also has two crews working on wildland fires in Washington.

Minnesota is also supporting firefighting efforts with personnel and equipment in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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Many cooperate in emergency response to windstorm in Superior National Forest

Winds from a thunderstorm early July 22, 2014 caused trees to blow down in areas across the Superior National Forest, with the most impacts in the far northwest part of the Forest in northern St. Louis County, Minnesota. Multiple agencies coordinated to rescue people from two groups injured from falling trees while camped in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). No further storm related injuries have been reported and crews continue to patrol and assess storm impacts today.

Starting in the early morning hours of July, 22, St. Louis County Search and Rescue (SLCSR),  Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department (CLVFD), local businesses, and the Superior National Forest worked together to conduct emergency response operations in parts of the LaCroix Ranger District that were impacted by the powerful thunderstorm.   Seven injuries were reported.

One group used a satellite phone to call in an emergency to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office at three a.m. from Lady Boot Bay of Lac LaCroix.  Zup’s Resort, Anderson’s Resort, SLCSR and CLVFD removed two injured people by boat to an ambulance. At approximately noon, a report of five more BWCAW visitors camped at Loon Lake — some who were still trapped in their tents from fallen trees — was received by SLCSR. Morse /Fall Lake First Responders (MFLFR), along with CLVFD members, extracted the trapped individuals.

First responders accompanied two people who were flown out by a Forest Service floatplane to Ely. Three more people with less serious injuries were accompanied by first responders and brought out by boat to Crane Lake. In a separate medical evacuation that was not storm-related, a Forest Service floatplane was also used and assisted by MFLFR and the Lake County Sheriff on Tuesday.

In response to the storm, an Interagency Incident Management Team (IMT) was formed to ensure other parties are not in need of assistance and assess storm impacts. Two Forest Service wilderness crews were already in the area of the storm and were redirected to check the safety of BWCAW visitors. Two Forest Service float planes flew patrols looking for any other injured parties and to assess the damage. One additional Forest Service crew was inserted by float plane to Lac LaCroix. A Minnesota State Patrol helicopter was on standby for closer assessments but was not utilized. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources used aircraft to help with public safety and storm damage assessments on the Canadian side of the border.

The Forest Service completed an aerial reconnaissance Tuesday and identified an area of concentrated impact in the Lac LaCroix Area, including Lady Boot Bay, Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Lady Boot Bay, Little Loon Lake, East Loon Bay, the Northern portion of the Sioux Hustler Trail, Little Gabro Area, Little Isabella Entry Point Area, Snake River Entry Point Area. Trees are also reported down at scattered locations across the Forest.

Based on current information, the Forest Service does not plan to close any part of the Superior National Forest due to the storm, including the BWCAW. Visitors to the Superior National Forest and surrounding area are urged to watch for downed trees and take particular caution around trees that may have been damaged but are partially suspended or not already on the ground. This is a reminder that visitors need to be prepared for conditions that may result from natural occurrences in the Wilderness and can expect downed trees on some portages and campsites as a result of this storm. Crews will continue patrols to assess and remove blown down trees as appropriate.

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Nary Road fire burns 76 acres in Pike Bay Township 1 mile south of Cass Lake on May 28

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division wildland fire crews, along with local city, county, federal, township and tribal agencies responded to a wildfire in Pike Bay Township in Cass County, approximately one mile southwest of Cass Lake, on May 28 after a Cass County Sheriff’s Officer received a report of the fire at approximately 1:30 p.m.

The fire, now controlled and being monitored, originated south of Nary Road approximately one-half mile west of Hwy. 371 in a pine forest containing a significant amount of blow down material.

Ten residences were evacuated along Nary Road (156th St. NW). Local fire department engines protected the residences in close proximity to the fire. No damage to these residences has been reported, although some abandoned outbuildings were burned. The fire was contained at approximately 5:30 p.m. with a bulldozer line.

DNR wildland fire crews, engines and bulldozers from Bemidji, Blackduck, Park Rapids, Backus and Warroad worked to extinguish the fire along with crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Leech Lake Department of Resources Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Conservation Corps of Minnesota. In addition, eight fire departments provided structure protection, including Cass Lake, Bemidji, Lakeport, Hackensack, Walker, Backus, Blackduck and Solway.

DNR aerial support included two DNR CL-215 water scooping aircraft from Bemidji and Brainerd and two DNR helicopters with water buckets from Bemidji and Hill City. Several private contract bulldozers and a tracked vehicle were also provided..

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, Leech Lake Tribal Police Department, Pike Bay Police Department and the Minnesota  State Patrol.

The Salvation Army and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe provided food and refreshments at the Pike Bay Town Hall.

Arson is suspected as the cause of the fire. A juvenile male found in close proximity to the fire scene was taken into custody by the Cass County Sheriff’s Department. DNR Fire Investigation Teams, in cooperation with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

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DNR lifts burning restrictions in all Minnesota counties May 23

Burning restrictions are lifted in all Minnesota counties on Friday, May 23, 2014 according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR is lifting the restrictions due to decreased fire danger and green up moving northward.

Those seeking to burn, need to obtain a burning permit available through state and federal forestry offices, from local fire wardens, or online by paying a $5 fee per calendar year. All burning permits need to be activated on the day of the burn. See http://webapps1.dnr.state.mn.us/burning_permits/.

Because fire danger can change quickly, DNR foresters are able to turn off burning permits in individual counties whenever conditions warrant. This could occur if there is a dry, windy day where fires could start easily and burn quickly.

Please check the Fire Restrictions page on the DNR Website at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html for information on daily changes to burn permits.

Although the state burning restrictions are lifted, local areas, counties or municipalities may have specific regulations or restrictions that affect burning operations. Please check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.

The DNR advises anyone doing burning to keep burn piles small, have a water supply nearby, and stay with the fire until it is completely out. If the fire escapes, the homeowner is responsible for the damage and suppression costs.

 

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