Spring brings wildfire concerns
May 01, 2018 06:45PM ● Published by Editor
At about 7:30 last night, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a party wondering if a burn permit had been issued for anyone in the Devil Track Lake area as they thought they smelled smoke.
There were no burn permits on file at the Sheriff’s Office, but a sheriff deputy patrolled the Devil Track South Shore Drive area to investigate. The deputy didn’t see any smoke or a fire.
However, just after 8 p.m., a call came in of a possible house fire. A homeowner on the south side of the lake could see a large fire, but couldn’t tell exactly where it was.
A deputy was again dispatched, along with the Maple Hill Fire Department, Grand Marais Fire Department, Cook County Ambulance and First Responders.
The deputy located the fire, which was a large brush pile. The fire departments and ambulance were cancelled.
The fire was at the property of Skyler Johnson of Grand Marais, who was monitoring the fire and standing by with a large piece of equipment.
Cook County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Valerie Marasco says the brush pile was in a clearing surrounded by snowbanks left from plowing in the winter. The surrounding ground around the clearing was shaded enough to hold snow.
Johnson had a large dozer ready to push the pile over if it started getting out of control. Johnson also had a water tank nearby.
Marasco said Johnson was advised that there needs to be a blanket of three inches of snow in order to burn without a permit. Given that there was still snow on the ground surrounding the brush pile, she said the deputy reprimanded Johnson for burning without a permit.
On Tuesday afternoon, May 2, WTIP received a call from a Gunflint Trail resident who thought he smelled smoke. WTIP contacted the U.S. Forest Service and learned that they had also received a call about smoke in the Gunflint area.
The Forest Service said a fire crew is investigating with an engine. If needed, a Beaver airplane will do a flyover.
Cook County is currently rated as having moderate fire danger, which means fires could start easily and spread at a very fast rate.
Residents can find the latest burning restrictions on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
Burning restrictions do not apply to campfires; they are still allowed. However, extreme caution is advised. The 2007 Ham Lake wildfire, which burned 75,000 acres and approximately 138 structures, began with a small campfire.
The Forest Service noted that the smoke noticed in Cook County could be from a wildfire in western Minnesota, in Roseau County, where a 5,800-acre grass fire is burning.
Anyone who suspects a fire is asked to contact Cook County Law Enforcement dispatch at 218-387-3030 or 9-1-1. The law enforcement center will contact the appropriate agencies.
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