Additional Crews to Help Fight BWCA Fires, Evacuations in Progress

By KBJR News 1

September 6, 2012 Updated Sep 7, 2012 at 12:04 PM CDT

Ely, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Additional crews have been brought in to help fight the fires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

This comes while camp fires are restricted across the entire BWCA areas are being evacuated as a precaution to keep campers safe.

"We're in the public safety mode right now," said Superior National Forest Wilderness Ranger, Tammy Cefalu, "We're going to post closures on the portages and sweep campsites. If we do run into any visitors we're going to send them on safe routes to exit."

The largest fire in the BWCA is near Cummings Lake. Superior National Forest spokespeople say it has burned about 50 acres and is 80-percent contained.

To help fight that fire and the others in the area a 20-person crew from Oregon was brought in to aid the ground effort.

Before beind dispatched they learned how to use a canoe, which is how they'll get to the fires.

"This is all new for most of them," said Superior National Forest Engine Crew Supervisor, Jeb Backe,"The biggest thing is just getting from point A to point B."

Superior National Forest officials say that the evacuations of portions of the BWCA near Ensign Lake are precautionary.

They say that the Wooden Leg fire, which has consumed about 1/4 acre, is the reason behind the closings. They say that although the fire is small, it is located near a blowdown with balsam regrowth, an area that is especially flamable and therefore dangerous.

Tim Engrav, with the Superior National Forest, says that the amount of time needed to get all of the visitors out of the closed areas was also a factor in the evacuations.

"It takes time. It's going to take us a day, two days really, to clear the closures area of the visiting public," Engrav said.

A campfire restriction for the entire Boundary Waters area has been put in place. Starting today, visitors are only allowed to have campfires between 7 p.m. to midnight.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.