N. Minn. fire anniversary to be marked by tree plantings

Forest ablaze
The Ham Lake fire in northeastern Minnesota consumed tens of thousands of acres in 2006.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Incident Command System

Several hundred volunteers have already signed up to plant 75,000 new trees along the Gunflint Trail to mark the first anniversary of the most destructive forest fire in Minnesota in 90 years.

The Gunflint Green Up celebration is planned for May 2-4, a year after the Ham Lake fire burned across 76,000 acres in northeast Minnesota and western Ontario. More than 250 volunteers are signed up to plant the red and white pine trees.

"It's a healing process for us up here, and for the people who don't live here but still love this country," Dan Bauman, co-owner of Golden Eagle Lodge and chief of the Gunflint Train Volunteer Fire Department, told the Duluth News Tribune.

"It's also a notice to people that we're still here. We're open. This is still the most beautiful wilderness in Minnesota."

Seagull Lake forest fire
Seagull Lake forest fire
Barb Tuttle

The weekend events also include food, music, dance, a half marathon and educational talks. It's also billed as one of Minnesota's sesquicentennial celebration events.

The Ham Lake fire, which burned out of control from May 5 to May 20 last year, damaged or destroyed 136 structures in Minnesota including six permanent homes and 22 seasonal cabins. No one was killed or seriously injured, but it was the largest wildfire in Minnesota since 1918 in acreage, lost buildings and financial damage.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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