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Updated 5/16: Prescribed burns scheduled for the Tofte and Gunflint Trail areas starting this week

May 16, 2024 08:08AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: SNF

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - Updated May 16, 2024, originally published May 13, 2024

May 16, 2024 Update From the US Forest Service: 

- Slim Lake South Prescribed Fire Update -
Fire Crews successfully completed 159 acres (Units A and C) of the Slim Lake South Prescribed Fire located north of Ely, MN and north of the North Arm of Burntside Lake Road.
The prescribed fire effects have been described as ideal with a nice backing fire under the pine stands and low flame heights observed. Forest stand conditions are improved and wildfire spread potential reduced as a result of this prescribed fire.
Smoke may remain visible in the prescribed fire area as interior pockets smolder in locations away from the edge of the units.
The North Arm Hiking Trails remain temporarily closed for the next several days for public safety. The Slim Lake BWCAW Entry Point #6 is open.

May 15, 2024 Update From the US Forest Service:

Fire Crews successfully completed the 390-acre Banjo Prescribed Fire located near Mid Trail of the Gunflint Trail, MN, and the 32-acre Unit 10 Valhalla Prescribed Fire located south of Hoyt Lakes, MN on May 14, 2024. Forest stand conditions are improved and wildfire spread potential is reduced as a result of these prescribed fires.

Today (May 15), the U.S. Forest Service-Superior National Forest plans on conducting prescribed fire operations at the Slim Lake Unit on the Kawishiwi Ranger District and the Fry Unit on the Tofte Ranger District today if conditions allow.

Original Post

Prescribed burns are planned for the Tofte and Gunflint areas for the next 7 to 14 days, according to a press release from the Superior National Forest (SNF). 

This week, a prescribed burn is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, and Wednesday, May 15, for the Banjo unit, located around the mid-Gunflint Trail area (Township 63N, Range 1W, Sections 2 and 3). The exact date of the burn depends on a variety of factors including "Fuel moisture, relative humidity, temperature, and wind." The Banjo unit is 390 acres in size and consists of 48 acres of mixed pine slash remaining from a timber sale, 231 acres of hand-cut understory balsam fir, and 111 areas of mixed hardwoods, immature pines, and lowland areas. 

 Image: USDA, Banjo unit Map

The main goal of the prescribed burn in this area is to "Decrease the potential for crown fires by breaking up the understory ladder fuels and reducing dead and downed surface fuels. In addition, burning will aid in maintaining, enhancing, and encouraging old pine characteristics and restoring the ecological process of fire to the site by returning surface fire at more natural intervals to maintain forest health," the release states. 

Fire is and has been an important component of the ecosystem of Northern Minnesota to reduce potential fuel for wildfires, improve the forest's health, and reduce or eliminate invasive species. Fire is also significant to indigenous people, and preserves a cultural activity of indigenous Treaty Bands in this area.

Isabella and Tofte

Other upcoming prescribed burn locations include the Fry unit by the Little Isabella Campground in Isabella (72 acres) on Wednesday, May 15, and the Bandit unit near Wilson Lake in Tofte (200 acres). See Fry map here, and Bandit map here.

Tofte, Sawbill Trail and Perent Lake Rd.

Assuming the above burns take place as scheduled, more burns are scheduled along the Gunflint Trail, Tofte, and the intersection of Sawbill Trail and Perent Lake Rd. 

 Image: USDA, Sunfish Unit map

Sunfish Unit, Greenwood Lake, Gunflint Trail

A prescribed burn is scheduled to take place at the Sunfish unit south of Greenwood Lake off the Gunflint Trail (775 acres), which consists of both National Forest System and MN DNR land. According to the Forest Service, the goal for this prescribed fire is to "Create defensible space around lake properties, a USFS campground, and other important values on the landscape. In addition, reintroducing fire on the landscape will improve moose habitat in the area."

 Image: USDA, Kawishiwi Lakes area map

Kawishiwi Unit, Kawishiwi Lakes Roadless Area

Two units in the Kawishiwi Lakes Roadless Area (1,883 total acres) will tentatively take place sometime after May 18, 2024, depending on weather and burn conditions. The SNF states that "Unit objectives are to reduce hazardous fuels and reduce brush to improve growing conditions for canopy trees. The treatments will also create a mosaic of young and old forest and improve habitat conditions for moose."

What to know

  • For the safety of firefighters and the public, the Forest Service requests that all traffic signs be followed if driving through the area. 
  • Smoke and flames may be visible.
  • After the burn, trees or other vegetation may be susceptible to falling. 
  • The SNF is asking the public to refrain from using drones in units where prescribed burns are taking place. "Prescribed fire smoke can impair first responder visibility, including aircraft, and unauthorized drones become unwelcome distractions in an already hectic environment."

For more information about the status of prescribed fires, please visit the Superior National Forest website, or on Facebook and Twitter/X for updates.  The Fire Information phone number is (218)248-7404.

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