Our Cavity Lake fire continues to burn, but fortunately not as wildly as in the initial days. The winds have moderated considerably, and this is very good news for everyone. Yesterday, the winds were from the northwest, 5-10 mph, with gusts up to 17 mph. Today, the wind is supposed to be continuing from the northwest, again at speeds of 5-10, with gusts to 15 mph. Contrast this with the 15-20 mph winds that we had over last weekend and in the early part of the week. When things are calmer, the teams are better able to fight the fire. We have four Army National Guardsmen staying in a cabin right now, and they told us last night that the last two days have been much better in regards to working on the fire. Each nugget of good news like this certainly helps.
Thanks to both the Internet and our local radio station, WTIP, we can get quite a bit of coverage on the latest news of the forest fire. Each day, the radio station has an interview with a Forest Service spokesperson. This representative gives the daily report of fire size and the strategies that the fire fighters are using to work on the fire. He/she also answers questions from the interviewer and from anyone who calls or emails the station with a question. This report usually happens on the Morning Calendar show at 9 a.m. and again on the Evening Calendar show at 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you want to listen in, WTIP has an internet streaming connection. Go to http://www.wtip.org and click on the dancing moose. That will take you to the web-stream connection. It helps to have faster internet than we do with our dial-up.
My other source for information is the website I gave the other day, http://www.mnics.org. The maps are updated regularly, and daily they post a report on the size of the fire, where the work was done the previous day, and what the strategy for the coming day will be. They have also added some image galleries, if you want to see pictures of the fire. This site really helps to give me solid information about the fire. I find that it helps to balance out the newspaper articles that I am reading.
It has come to our attention that various news media sources are saying that the Gunflint Trail is going to be evacuated. Someone told us that while he was visiting Philadelphia, the news report he saw said that they might even have to evacuate Grand Marais! Mike knew that this was a little far-fetched, since the fire would have to travel fifty miles in order for this to be a reality. I thought that it might be a good idea for me to write a bit about what has been said up here regarding evacuation. At this point, no evacuations of the Trail have been ordered. There have been escorts for campers on the lakes where the fire is actively burning. The Incident Command Team (those in charge of planning how to manage the fire) have set up what they call Trigger Points. These are lines drawn on the maps that indicate where the fire would have to reach for the sheriff to call for an evacuation. I learned yesterday that the fires are still a mile and a half to two miles away from these trigger points. They are mainly in areas that were prescription burns in the last several years. The fire has reached the edge of some of these areas, and the fire is slowing down, just as the management team had hoped it would. As the Guardsmen put it, “The prescribed burn areas are holding.” These areas are also better for actively fighting the fire's progression.
In the years since the blow down, several local agencies have been putting together evacuation plans in the event that someday they would need one. It is similar to the way the public health departments have been working with Homeland Security to put plans together for the possibility of a future terrorist attack. It is much better to be prepared, than to scramble together a last-minute plan when the need is imminent. These evacuation plans include roughly five zones on the Gunflint Trail. At any given time, only two zones would be called upon to evacuate. The plan was designed this way to accommodate the fact that there is only one road out, the Gunflint Trail. Rather than have everyone leaving at the same time, the plan organizes the zones to leave as needed, again with only two at a time being required to go.
Safety of our guests is always our first priority. I remember a conversation I had with Greg in March, long before this fire began. I told him that it is my job to make sure that everyone is safe. (Maybe it is the mother hen in me.) I take that very seriously, and on a daily basis, forest fire or not. In the years since the Sag corridor fire in 1995, and the blow down, in 1999, I have put a lot of thought into what we should do in the event of some large event or catastrophe, such as a fire or storm similar to the one in ’99. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have not had to use these plans, and we are also grateful for all the work that the various agencies have done these last seven years to be as prepared as they are today.
My brother just called to say that he heard on a Twin Cities TV station this morning that the Trail may be evacuated today or tomorrow. Greg put a call in to the Cook County Law Enforcement agency to verify this. The dispatcher told him that this is not true. Our Law Enforcement people will be the agency that orders and facilitates any evacuation. Any recent TV report of evacuations is made up. At a meeting Greg attended yesterday, he learned that on some TV newscasts, video footage of the fire was being shown and reported, while a little headline scroll on the bottom of the screen reported the evacuations happening in Lebanon. Could this be how rumors get started?
As I look out my front window, it is a clear sunny day. We had a cool night, and the morning temp here was 57 degrees. Great sleeping weather. If you have plans to come up to the Trail, I’d say to come on up. If you have concerns, call your resort or outfitter, to get the frontline story of how things are. We want everyone to be safe and we want everyone to have a good time. Give us a call up here for the real story.