Prepared by Jean Goad, lead public information officer, MNICS Team C
A Minnesota Incident Command System team was activated yesterday after straight-line winds of up to 100 miles per hour were reported across parts of northern Minnesota during the early morning of July 21, 2016. From Beltrami County in the northwest, to Duluth and east into Wisconsin, widespread damage occurred causing two fatalities and two serious injuries to campers in Quetico National Park, Canada.
A nine-member MNICS incident management (short) team, under Incident Commander Brian Pisarek, has focused on the safety and protection of life, structures and natural resources. The team was also charged with assessing resources, equipment and overhead for loss, response and recovery activities. The team gathered intelligence, developed multi-agency maps, monitored information and collaborated with MNICS agencies and local emergency response partners.
The storm caused major damage especially in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) near Ely, Duluth, Cloquet, Hill City and Itasca State Park. As of this morning, nearly 70,000 people were affected by power outages across northern Minnesota.
An initial USFS attack (IA) Type 3 IMT is managing the response in the BWCAW, as reported by the Superior National Forest. Yesterday, aircraft searched for distressed campers and assessed the scope of damage. The Chippewa National Forest reported downed trees and debris, and some damage at Norway Beach, but campgrounds remained open.
Today, seven aircraft were available for response and patrol near Ely including four helicopters from Minnesota DNR Forestry, DNR Enforcement, the Minnesota State Patrol and a Life Link helicopter from Hibbing. Also, a USFS Beaver, a DNR Enforcement plane on floats and a DNR Air Attack were available in Ely to provide air support.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel and Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) crews worked in Itasca State Park to clear roads and campgrounds. Several state structures have sustained damage from fallen trees. To assist, fallers moved to areas of need. Fallers (sawyers) are trained and qualified to fell trees using chain saws.
Significant road clearing has occurred on state and federal forests, parks and trails with local and area resources and personnel. The Minnesota Bureau of Indian Affairs reported minimal damage here but extensive wind damage and flooding in Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had power outages yesterday at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge but service is back on today. MNICS partner agency, the National Park Service at Voyageur’s National Park, reported no damage.
City and county emergency operation centers across the northland responded to calls for assistance and established cooling shelters during the intense heat. Minnesota Homeland Security & Emergency Management is assisting counties with the emergency assessment process and emergency declarations were issued for Blue Earth and Nicollet counties. St. Louis, Beltrami and Clearwater counties are assessing their emergency status.
Photos by Adam Cook, USFS
On July 12, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center’s (MIFC) crew #2 was assigned to the Hayden Pass Fire in Salida, Colorado, which is now 55 percent contained at 16,489 acres burned. Yesterday the crew was demobilized and assigned to the 1,800-acre Little Den Fire, 39 miles west of Austin, Nevada. Before leaving Colorado, the crew visited Storm King Mountain near Glenwood where 14 firefighters died in 1994 in the South Canyon fire; a scenario that shaped future wildland firefighting policy and standard equipment.
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) mobilizes its fifth crew of the season
Photos by Matt Goseyun, MIFC crew #2
Operations at the Hayden Pass Fire are going well with less burning along containment lines in the north and east flanks. The fire is at 16,414 acres with 30 percent containment. You can watch today’s operations plan here.
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) mobilizes its fourth crew of the summer
Another crew (MIFC crew #3) is on its way to the 15,200-acre Hayden Pass Fire in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. The 20-member crew, led by Nick Abel and Jeremy Pace, will join MIFC crew #2 and nearly 600 personnel to suppress the fire near Salida that grew by 1,700 acres since yesterday.
A 20-member Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) Type II-A crew left Grand Rapids this morning and is headed to the rapidly growing Hayden Pass Fire, 20 miles southeast of Salida, Colorado.
Straight line winds registering 60-70 MPH referred to as a “Bow Echo” entered Southwest Itasca County at approximately 5:30 PM, July 5, 2016.
Wide spread power outages occurred in the City of Deer River and intermittently throughout Itasca County.
The community of Ball Club suffered storm damage and local residents responding had mostly completed cleanup activities by night fall July 6th.
A public meeting was held at the Deer River High School Wednesday evening, July 6th.
Salvation Army and the Red Cross provided food and water at the Deer River High School.
Services at the Deer River School were terminated at 8PM on Thursday, July 7th.
Thursday – Saw crews and FireWise removed debris from approximately 100 residences in the city of Deer River and 20 plus in the McCavity Lake/ Crooked Lake area.
Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power and Light have completed clearing debris from power lines.
Customers of all power companies are reminded that damage to power supply inside of residences and structures and to the mast is the responsibility of the homeowner. Final power connection cannot be completed by power companies until power repairs from the mast to and into the structure are completed.
- Type 3 MNICS Incident Management Team is assigned to assist the Itasca County Sheriff, City of Deer River and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
- 20 person MNICS Interagency saw crew
- Itasca Fire Wise project crew
- Itasca Sheriff
- Minnesota DNR
- City of Deer River
- Itasca FireWise
- Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
- McCavity/Crooked Lake area – Two five person Chain saw crews will be assigned
- City of Deer River –One five person Chain saw crew and the FireWise crew will be assigned to Deer River city wide clean up.
- Saw crews will be tasked with storm damaged Vegetation removal within 120 feet around structures and within 20 feet of structure access drives.
Curbside. Storm vegetation pickup by FireWise was discontinued in the City of Deer River Thursday evening. Citizens may still bring tree and brush debris to the city brush disposal site. No building/construction demolition may be delivered to this site.
Recovery Assistance Available
Itasca FireWise Will pick up storm damaged vegetation that is piled near access points and that originated within 120 feet of structures and 20 feet of access driveways, in communities designated as a FireWise community.
Itasca County Landfill is accepting storm damaged vegetation free of charge from Itasca County residents.
Residents of Deer River are encouraged to call city hall for a list of certified tree removal specialists.
Individuals in need of financial assistance with electrical power reconnection should call 211 at 218-326-8565.
Residents with damage to homes and other out buildings should contact the Itasca County Assessor’s office (218-327-2861).
Itasca County Commissioners have approved a “Declaration of a State of Emergency” in Itasca County.
DNR open burning permits will be written from 7/7 through 7/11 that will allow daytime burning. A burning permit and the activation of that permit is still required.
Storm Relief fund raiser – Spaghetti dinner at the Grand Rapids Eagles on July 15th, 2016.
Plans for Friday
- Continued chainsaw work and debris removal.
- Local authorities will resume management of the incident at 6 PM tonight.
Points of Contact
- Ron Sanow , Incident Management Team PIO, 218-839-1504
- Marlyn Halvorson, Itasca County Emergency Manager, 218-910-0546
- Mark Box, Deer River City Administrator, 218-244-9509
Robby Johnson has accepted the Helicopter Operations Specialist (HOS) position at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC). Previously, he was a NR-Fire Technician in Hill City and worked as the acting HOS at MIFC this past spring fire season. He replaces Matt Woodwick, who is the assistant wildfire aviation supervisor. Robby has 17 seasons of fire and aviation experience. Also, he was the statewide aerial ignition program coordinator and active with aerial seeding and herbicide projects.
“I am pleased to continue working with the DNR wildfire aviation team and look forward to new projects and initiatives. We are a tight team and I value my co-workers’ experience, expertise and skills,” said Johnson, who has a son (3-year-old Hudson) and a daughter (9-month-old Bristol) with wife, Breanne.
To honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) announced that from this year forward June 30 through July 6 will be designated as “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance.”
It was three years ago today that 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on the Yarnell Fire. The NWCG has developed a “6 Minutes for Safety” calendar with topics to encourage firefighters to remember, reflect and discuss lessons learned from this tragedy and previous risk management scenarios. Today’s safety discussion is on human factors on the fireline. Read the tip sheet or watch the video.
The Karlstad Fire Department in northwestern Minnesota now has a significant upgrade to its fire fleet courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources Department of Defense Firefighter Property Program.
Saturday, June 25 the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center mobilized its second 20-member crew to the Crow Peak Fire in the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota. According to a Wildfire Today article, crews are battling four fires in the Black Hills. The MIFC crew is being sent to the 77-acre Crow Peak Fire located in thick forest with heavy slash. The fire grew from high winds created by a cold front moving through the area. The first MIFC crew was mobilized last Sunday, June 19 and is pre-positioned as an initial attack crew in Flagstaff at the Coconino National Forest, Arizona. Currently, this crew is assisting U.S. Forest Service staff from the Mogollon Rim Ranger District to reduce hazardous fuels in the area.
An early beginning
Minnesota 2016 fire season began in early March as warm air surged north and temperatures climbed into the mid-60s. On March 8, the Twin Cities saw a record high of 70 degrees. Minnesota had 267 total fires in March burning 2,158 acres. This compares to 204 fires the year before for 1,781 acres burned. In April, Minnesota had 500 fires for 4,185 acres; and in May there were 493 fires totaling 3,031 acres burned.
On Friday, June 17 a MNICS team presented “A Day in the Life of a Wildland Firefighter” as part of the University of Minnesota Youth & Community “Heroes Week” summer camp at the St. Paul campus.
The 2016 Wildfire Academy has officially ended for this year. Many thanks to our Academy partners: Advanced Minnesota, Itasca Community College, University of Minnesota Northern Research Outreach Center and Visit Grand Rapids. (photo by Karl Gaalaas).
More field activity on Wednesday: Fire Safety Instructor Pete Leschak demonstrates water pump basics to S-130/190 – L-180 students. In this week-long course, S-190 covers environmental factors affecting the start and spread of wildfire; and how to identify potentially dangerous situations. S-130 provides entry level firefighting skills and L-180 is an overview of human factors on the fireline.
Field exercises started today at the 2016 Wildfire Academy. Thanks goes to the University of Minnesota Northern Research Outreach Center (NROC) and Itasca Community College for use of their land so Academy students can train in the field. Amanda Graning is pictured below launching a weather balloon as part of the Fire Behavior class where students learn about conditions that affect fire danger.