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Wisconsin Fire Crews Sent to Boundary Waters to Help Fight Wildfires

The Delta Lake Fire, Eastern Area IMT
A fire crew cuts their way through fallen timber to reach the Delta Lake Fire in the Boundary Waters. Wisconsin DNR staff are working on this fire right now.

Fire crews from Wisconsin are working on a couple fires burning in northern Minnesota.

Dry conditions have led to a couple of small wildfires near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Credit The Delta Lake Fire, Eastern Area IMT

They started popping up after a lightning storm moved through the area.

Two of the fires are about 20 acres and are under control.

The Delta Lake fire is more than 60 acres, located just east of Ely.

Fire crews are having a harder time getting this one under control because it’s harder to get to.

“Unfortunately, it did occur in a blow down area. We have a lot of heavy, dense fuel, timber that’s waist high that crews have to cut in and put a line around. It’s very limited access,” said Catherine Koele.

Koele is the Wildfire Prevention Specialist for the Wisconsin DNR. Usually, she’s based out of Oneida County. Right now, she’s in northern Minnesota working as the Public Information Officer for the Eastern Area Incident Management Team.

Koele is one of several DNR staff from Wisconsin working on these fires.

“Some of us are attached to teams some of us are single resources. When it gets to certain preparedness levels, is what we call them, kind of a 1-5 level, we’re able to mobilize resources quickly,” said Koele.

Right now, the National Preparedness Level is at 5, the highest it goes.

This is because of multiple wildfires burning across the U.S. and the high potential for more.

Koele said because of the high risk, fire crews are able to mobilize quickly, but they typically won’t get sent as far.

“We want to keep folks close. We’ve been sharing resources to Ontario as well as Minnesota. We do have some engines up there as well,” said Koele.

Credit The Delta Lake Fire, Eastern Area IMT

Koele said while the terrain has been challenge, the weather has been both good and bad.

It’s good that there hasn’t been a lot of wind to fuel the fire and it’s been humid enough in the evenings that fire behavior is low. But lack of rain and the dry conditions make it easy for new fires to start.

If you have a trip to the boundary waters planned anytime soon, Koele recommends checking conditions before you go.

“We just don’t know what the future holds. We have a lot of fire season ahead of us. It’s very early to see this kind of activity. We just need to keep an eye on things. Folks need to know and have contingency plans in place for travel,” said Koele.

There are also fire restrictions in place for parts of the Boundary Waters.

Koele and other DNR Staff are sent to work on the fires for two weeks stretches at a time.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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