ELY- With red flag fire weather warnings posted across northern Minnesota, Ely had its first brush with a wildfire on the afternoon of Saturday, May 27. The fire was reported before 5 p.m. …
ELY- With red flag fire weather warnings posted across northern Minnesota, Ely had its first brush with a wildfire on the afternoon of Saturday, May 27. The fire was reported before 5 p.m. immediately west of the Ely Golf Course and just north of the Pioneer Tailings Basin, known locally as the Lucky Boy Ponds.
“The fire burned approximately 20 acres near the Taconite Trail,” said Leanne Langeberg, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids.
Because the fire started on state-owned land, the Department of Natural Resources was the lead agency directing fire response, Langeberg explained. The Morse/Fall Lake and Ely Fire Departments also responded to the fire with ground units.
Three air assets, a Chinook helicopter and two Fire Boss fixed wing aircraft also responded to the fire, which started in stands of timber between Highway 169 and the Lucky Boy Ponds. The fire was contained before dusk on Saturday.
The Boeing Chinook CH-47D can carry approximately 2,500 gallons of water. A Fire Boss plane can carry 280 gallons in two tanks mounted forward of the pilot’s seat in the fuselage. The unique feature of the Fire Boss is its ability to scoop water into its tanks while performing a touch-and-go on water.
“DNR closed the Taconite Trail because of the fire,” Langeberg said. The trail was closed from Ely to Purvis Lake but was reopened as of Tuesday.
The Chinook awed local spectators gathered at the Morse township offices next to the golf course. At this location, bystanders watching the fire could watch the helicopter dip into Lucky Boy pond for water. The two Fire Boss aircraft scooped their water from Shagawa Lake.
Langeberg said the cause of the fire is not known at this time and that the incident is currently under investigation. Langeberg also cautioned that fire conditions remain hazardous. “We’re in a really dry pattern right now. “We were in red flag critical fire weather throughout Minnesota. We’ve not had substantial precipitation since the snow melted and moving into the warm-weather season, it has remained pretty dry.”
Langeberg also remarked that open burning is currently prohibited because of the adverse fire conditions. “Campfires are allowed, and those are restricted to small recreational fires three feet or smaller. There can be no unattended fires.”
Langeberg directed that all campfires need to be doused with water and the ashes stirred until the fire site is “cool to the back of your hand.”
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