Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

USFS successfully completes White Iron burn near Ely

Keith Vandervort
Posted 8/10/17

WHITE IRON LAKE – The U.S. Forest Service Kawishiwi Ranger District successfully completed an 82-acre prescribed burn late last week on the eastern side of White Iron Lake outside of Ely.

“The …

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USFS successfully completes White Iron burn near Ely

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WHITE IRON LAKE – The U.S. Forest Service Kawishiwi Ranger District successfully completed an 82-acre prescribed burn late last week on the eastern side of White Iron Lake outside of Ely.

“The prescribed fire is complete,” said Rebecca Manlove, information assistant for the Ranger District. “Crews are in mop up and monitor mode with a deep perimeter well-secured. Internal smoking and creeping fire is expected to continue until the area receives a soaking rain.”

The purpose of the White Iron Prescribed Fire was to reduce hazardous fuels on Superior National Forest land in a strategic location between wild lands and private homes and businesses. That goal has been met, she said. Fire crews and equipment will be seen both on the water and on the Ring Rock Road as they monitor fire activity. Rainfall is being monitored daily as well.

“The fire behavior was moderate, which was what fire managers planned,” Manlove said. “Fuels were not too wet nor too dry and there was good consumption in most of the unit. In some portions the fire left a mosaic of burned and unburned fuels.”

The 82-acre prescribed burn unit is located at the tip of the peninsula at the end of Ring Rock Road on the southeastern shore of White Iron Lake.

According to Manlove, the purpose of the prescribed fire was fuel reduction and ecosystem management. “Fire managers wanted to burn the White Iron Unit after the fuels dried slightly from recent rain but not so long afterward that all the fuels on the landscape dried out,” she said.

The ideal condition was a northerly wind to blow smoke and embers away from nearby homes. Enough crews were on duty to both accomplish the prescribed fire and to be on stand-by for response to wildfires in case they happened at the same time, she said.

One reason a summer burn is ideal is that older pines have more water. “We’ve been measuring the moisture level in the needles of the balsam, jack pine, white pine, and red pine,” Manlove said. “The pines have plenty of water to buffer themselves from the heat of a fire. Historically, fires burned in summer when there is more lightning. These trees co-evolved with fire, so most can handle the heat of a surface fire. Burning will protect the peninsula from stand-replacing fire and reduce the germination of balsam fir. Fire kills the balsam seeds in the soil. A summer burn is within the prescription of the burn plan for this unit.”

Firefighter crews used hose lines and hand tools to work directly on the prescribed burn unit. “Crews used boats during the ignition phase as well as holding operations because the unit is on a peninsula,” she said. Additional crews remained on stand-by in case wildfire broke out in other locations.

Sprinkler hoses were set up along the northern line. Balsam was removed and brush piles were burned last spring, Manlove said. “Many nearby landowners have created defensible space using Firewise Standards around their structures.”

There were no closures of entry points, campsites or portages within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Visitors and residents could see and smell smoke through the weekend. A northwest wind was predicted for pushing most of the smoke to the southeast. “The north line will be patrolled until there is a soaking rain or fire behavior is minimal,” Manlove said.

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