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Burntside Lake Association

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Foss Lake Fire Follow Up Information

The Burntside Lake Association is now using an Email system hosted locally which will be used to send to send this message and occasional announcements and other messages of importance.  This system was in the process of being set up just as the Foss Lake controlled burn escaped to the north on May 19th and expanded into roughly 1000 acres just west of Burntside and South of Crab Lake. The fire zone continues to be monitored.  The Crab Lake portage which had been closed, is reopened now.

The US Forest Service held a community meeting the evening after the fire broke through the prescribed burn boundaries.  It was  at the Vermilion Community College and provided immediate information and answers to questions from the audience.  Among the questions was "Do you have the resources that you need".  The answer was "Yes", and in the days following even more resources were called into action that showed this was true.  

News and information about the Foss Lake fire was provided by by area newspapers and broadcast. Social media, such as the Facebook group "Ely's Burntside Lake. Yesterday. Today..."  which allowed immediate commentary and photographs as well. 


Here are some links that with information that may add to what you may already have heard.

The US Forest Service provided official updates, maps, announcements and photos at this web site:

The Ely Echo provided the Ely community with fire information often citing the above site:
The Timberjay newspaper wrote a comprehensive analysis of how the fire developed and what will follow afterwards:,12712

Controlled burning is a fire intentionally ignited to meet specific land management objectives, such as to reduce flammable fuels.  Annually between 4000-5000 prescribed burns are conducted by Federal land management agencies and of these it is estimated that all but 1% are successful in that the fires did not escape or nearly escape (National Wildfire Coordinating Group, 2005).

There are several unintended but positive consequences of the Foss Lake incident:  

  • The large area which burned north of Foss Lake has been a part of a planned but separate future prescribed burn. This will provide increased protection to Burntside property owners on the west end of the lake, as it reduces the fuel that could carry a fire driven through the burned area by our prevailing west winds
  • Recent studies have shown that where large acreage fires have occurred in our region (Pagami Creek fire, for one), moose populations have been rebounding.  Moose remain under stress and are declining in numbers for a variety of reasons but even the Foss Lake fire holds some possibility for Moose to find a life supporting habitat. See this long but interesting article, which refers to the Foss Lake fire: "More forest fires, more moose" in the Duluth News Tribune. May 28, 2016. 
  • Unrelated to the Foss Lake Fire, on the east end of Burntside on a small privately owned island a brush fire broke out.  Two US Forest Service initial attack crews (13 firefighters ), the Forest Service Beaver, and Morse/Fall Lake Volunteer Fire Department firefighters responded to that fire near the Little Long Lake portage. The fire created enough smoke for people in the area to observe, and may have prompted the rumor in Ely that Burntside was being evacuated.  That  rumor was not true. Fortunately these fire suppression crews were equipped and already on the lake.
  • If you read just some of the above news and  articles you will notice all the levels of government organizations that mobilized and came to Ely to contain the outbreak.  They ranged from townships, the City of Ely, St. Louis County, the State of Minnesota, and United States Forest Service.  The volunteer operated Vermilion fire brigade boat was on scene ready for action. It also carried crews back and forth from the Van Vac landing to the fire zone.  St. Louis County Sheriff deputies and others contacted cabin owners around area potentially at risk with evacuation information, if necessary. 
  • Even the Ely economy got a boost with the housing necessary for out-of-the are crews, restaurants were pressed into action to serve the hard working and hungry additional customers.

Through these recent  days, many of us were genuinely and justifiably stressed and worried. There will be stories to tell about that.  But all around town and on the lake, a lot of gratitude was shown to the firefighters for their sacrifice and accomplishments on our behalf.

Planning for Wildfire 2016 Ely Firewise Demonstration Days

Firewise addresses the risk of homes in the wildland/urban interface to wildland fire.  Check out: Firewise Minnesota

As more homes are built in the woods and fields of Minnesota, the existing firefighting resources are less able to protect everyone's property while trying to control a wildfire. Homes close to evergreens and the tall grasses of prairies or marshes are most at risk. Making your home able to survive an approaching wildfire is the goal of the Firewise program.  

In view of Foss Lake fire, do you want to learn steps you can take to protect your cabin, home or neighborhood against wildfire?  Firewise Demonstration Days this June in the Ely area will discuss how all of us living in close proximity to the Boundary Waters can best prepare for wildfire. This is an opportunity to learn about ways you can reduce risk to your home and cabin by implementing wildfire prevention strategies. Jeffery Jackson NE Region Firewise Specialist, Minnesota is presenting these no cost sessions.

Burntside Demo Day: Friday June 10th, 2:00-4:00pm

2945 Van Vac road

For more information about this and additional demonstration days around Ely contact:

Gloria Erickson, Fire Adaptive Communities Coordinator

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (218) 365-0878


Address Information

Burntside Lake Association
P.O. Box 81
Ely, MN 55731

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