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News and other information from Cook County

Forest Service updates area fire information -- Friday noon

Fri, 09/14/2012 - 12:47pm

The Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts are reporting that as of Thursday night the Peterson Lake Fire is about quarter of an acre in size. 

After working the fire actively with water drops, and ground crews all day on Thursday the fire is 100% contained.  

Crews went back in Friday to finish mopping up.  Aircraft monitoring and ground crews will continue to monitor until we receive adequate precipitation falls.

Currently the Mora Lake Fire is about three acres in size and is also contained. The fire will continue to be monitored by air on a daily basis.   

The Emerald Lake Fire is still located on the northern shore of Knife Lake in the Quetico Provincial Park.  Patty Johnson, USFS Fire Management Officer is flying the fire today and the Forest Service will continue to monitor this fire by aircraft.

A number of campsites on the U.S. side in Lake County have been closed as a precaution. They range from the US/Canadian border south along the Knife Lake diagonal from Swamp Lake to Bonnie Lake, and inland to the Lower Knife Lake area. All affected campsites and portages remain closed until further notice.

First & Second Thift Store benefits community

Fri, 09/14/2012 - 9:59am

Since it opened in July 2007, the First & Second Thrift Store in Grand Marais has distributed $180,000 to non-profits in the community. On August 29, thrift store volunteers gathered at the Grand Marais Senior Center to celebrate the store’s success—and to accept their share of the proceeds.
Volunteers at the thrift store in the Cobblestone Building on Highway 61 in Grand Marais are not paid, but instead allocate the money earned for their time in the store or at the donation center to a community organization of their choosing.
 In this payout period, January 1 – June 30, 59 volunteers who worked a total of 1,596 hours earning $17,349. Twenty-nine non-profit organizations received money to continue their good works, thanks to those volunteers, who earned $11 per hour.
 Thrift Store Coordinator Sally Berg said she was delighted to distribute the checks to the volunteers on hand. “It’s pretty impressive for such a small town,” she said.
However, Berg said, more volunteers are needed. She smiled and said,“Consider joining us if you enjoy working for a deserving non-profit— and sometimes finding a treasure or two!”
Volunteers laughed, agreeing that they are sometimes the store’s best customers.
Checks were distributed to representatives of local schools, churches, youth groups, the Cook County Food Shelf, the North Shore Health Care Foundation and more.
 If you would like to help a community nonprofit by working at the First & Second Thrift Store or at the donation center, contact Bev Green at the Senior Center for more information at (218) 387-2660.
If you would like to donate items to sell at the thrift store, donations are accepted at the neatly organized garage behind the Cook County Senior Center Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Canadian fire continues to smoke and burn

Fri, 09/14/2012 - 5:58am

Early Thursday night the US Forest Service issued an update on wildfires in the area.

According to East Zone Fire Management Officer Patti Johnson, several wilderness campers were asked to leave a smoky area affected by the Knife Lake Fire burning in the Quetico Provincial Park. She said the area had been closed and is being monitored to keep campers out.

Johnson said the last flight yesterday showed little growth and the Quetico fire is now approximately 500 acres.  It has moved into a 2005 prescribed burn area.

The fire was backing to the north towards Emerald Lake. Johnson added that the Canadians had put a three-person crew out to secure the peninsula area between Knife and Little Knife Lake so it won’t move across there. 

“They have very few resources to do full suppression on this fire at this time,” she said.  “They are very busy up there with fires that are threatening communities."

According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, there were four new fires in the region on Thursday.

This follows a busy Wednesday in the region which had 15 new confirmed fires by day's end in Dryden, Kenora, Fort Frances, Nipigon, Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay districts. The cause of the new fires has been both human and lightning.


USFS releases information about Knife Lake Fire

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 6:41pm

About 6:10 PM, Thursday, East Zone Fire  Management  Officer Patti Johnson of the US Forest Service released the following official information about the Knife  Lake Fire.

"We swept the area this morning and found only a handful of groups in there.  We sent out six people today to sweep the area and ensure people move out of the area, and to post the area closed.  They will stay in there and be monitoring to ensure no one goes into the area," Johnson said.

"The last flight today showed little growth this afternoon.  The fire is approximately 500 acres.  The fire has moved into a fire from 2005 to the east and is creeping around in there.  The fire was backing to the north towards Emerald Lake which is where it was most active today," said Johnson.  "The Canadians did put a three-person crew out there today to secure the peninsula area between Knife and Little Knife Lake so it won’t move across there.  They have very few resources to do full suppression on this fire at this time.  They are very busy up there with fires that are threatening communities."

Small wildfires cause closing some areas in BWCAW

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 5:46pm

A series of small wildfires are currently burning in or adjacent to northern parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  In light of this fire activity and projected weather, the US Forest Service is closing some lakes and surrounding areas to protect public safety.

In light of continued dry and windy conditions, the USFS has implemented campfire restrictions in the BWCAW until further notice.  Campfires are allowed only between 7 PM and Midnight n the BWCAW.   Everyone is asked to be very careful with campfires, matches, smoking materials and all flames.

The USFS reports the following lakes, campsites, and portages within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are closed until further notice:

Related to Hoist Lake Fire

Four Mile Portage, Ella Hall, Mud Lakes, Slumber, and Muskeg Lakes and campsites; the waters and campsites of Hoist and Back Bays of Basswood Lake, the portages from from Pipestone to Back Bay, Back Bay toward Half Dog Island (a.k.a. Frog Portage), and from Hoist Bay to Good Lake.

Related to Parley Lake Fire

Sunday and Saturday Bay Campsites in Crooked Lake; Zones 5, 1, and 2 of the Sundial Primitive Management Area—all the lakes and waterways within that area including: the Beartrap River from Beartrap Lake north to Iron Lake, Parley, Sunday, Sundial, Bunggee, Sinneeg, and Ritual Lakes ; Travel will be allowed through the bays of Crooked Lake but camping will not be allowed on Sunday and Saturday Bays; Travel will NOT be allowed on the Beartrap River.

Related to Emerald Lake Fire (fire is on Canadian side of border)

Gunflint Trail’s “cultural significance” precludes safety improvements

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 11:26am

The Gunflint Trail is not a safe road, according to County Engineer David Betts, but making is safer is looking impossible. 
County State Aid Highway 12 has narrow lanes, a lack of shoulders, trees impeding visibility, a long season of ice and snow, and lots of people driving fast around blind corners.  Part of the process of developing a better design for the road and getting some funding from the federal government, however, required a review by the Minnesota Department of Transportation Cultural Resources Unit.  That review found that the Gunflint Trail is “culturally significant” in its current form, and that precludes it from being changed.  In addition, the review recommended that speed limits be lowered.
“I completely disagree with this report,” Engineer Betts told the county board on September 11, 2012.  “This basically leaves us having to leave a dangerous road dangerous.”  No effective appeals process is available, he said.
Betts had been working on designs that called for 12-foot lanes, four-foot shoulders, and adequate drainage.  Federal funding has been procured through the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for the project, which is slated to begin in 2014. 
Betts said that the county could transfer the funding to a different road and use other available funding to do some of what he thinks needs to be done on the Gunflint Trail.  That funding would cover the cost of replacing the bituminous surface, a solution that would last about 10 years.  If they do any work that involves going down further than the bituminous surface, the state’s cultural significance rules would apply.
There was talk about transferring the funding to the Sawbill Trail, to possibly pave it up to where it meets The Grade, but the county board did not take any action.