Environment

Boundary Waters wildfire may have been human caused

A plane drops water on a wildfire
A CL415 airplane drops water on the Spice Lake Fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Thursday.
USDA Forest Service photo courtesy of Bridger Aerospace

Fire investigators have determined that the wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area that started on Tuesday may have been started by a human cause.

The Spice Lake Fire, which is burning about 10 miles southwest of the end of the Gunflint Trail, estimated its size at about 20 acres.

In a news release on Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said fire investigators were able to visit the site and determined that “this fire was human caused and remains under investigation.”

On Friday, the forest service temporarily closed part of the BWCAW covering an early that affects nearly 50 lakes — including portages and about 80 campsites — as well as a portion of the Kekekabic Trail.

A map showing lakes closed due to a wildfire
The Superior National Forest announced a temporary closure of part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that took effect Friday, June 16 due to the Spice Lake Fire.
Superior National Forest

Superior National Forest officials said outfitters, and people holding permits for trips into that part of the BWCAW, have been notified.

John Fredrickson is the owner of Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters. He said they are still open to the public and not being impacted too much from the smoke from the fires.

“There’s an area around the fire that’s closed to canoe trippers,” Fredrickson said. “But you know, all the outfitters up here are helping to reroute and make plans. So it’s pretty much business as normal, just keeping an eye on it.”

Fire crews worked to set a fire line around the perimeter of the wildfire. Forest officials added that firefighters completed burning 3-4 acres in the middle of the fire area to bring the wildfire to a natural barrier. Crews have been dropping water on it from the air, and firefighters have been transported to the area via floatplane to battle the flames on the ground.

Other parts of the BWCAW remain open to visitors, though a ban on open burning — including campfires — is in effect for the wilderness and most of the rest of northeast Minnesota.

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