BWCAW Closed for One Week Due to Multiple Wildfires, Limited Resources
Crews haven't seen a full closure of the BWCAW in more than 40 years.
DULUTH, Minn.- The Superior National Forest closed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) Saturday, due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, and limited resources. The closure will be in place for seven days and may be modified or extended as conditions allow.
“A full-on, a full closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that is, that’s rare,” said Tim Engrav, PIO for the Superior National Forest. “We’re thinking that 1976 was the last time that due to fire conditions or wildfire potential that the Boundary Waters had to be closed down.”
Effective immediately, all lands, waters, trails, portages, campsite, canoe routes, and wilderness entry points in the BWCAW for seven days.
According to Engrav, the Forest Service hasn’t seen fire conditions as extreme as this season’s in a number of years.
The John Ek Fire in the Northeast portion of the Superior National Forest is a prime example — which Friday grew from three acres to 1,600 in just one day.
Crews have been battling that blaze and about five more in the forest and helping with the Greenwood and Canadian wildfires. Limited crews from other agencies and states have also helped.
“If we don’t have a bunch more coming it’s really hard. We can be spread very thin,” Engrav said.
Even with some reserve crews, Engrav said it would take too much time to evacuate individual regions of the Boundary Waters.
“And that also puts our employees and firefighters at risk and committed to that effort as opposed to maybe being committed to the firefighting effort,” he said.
“We know that we get a lot of visitors and folks plan their trips,” said Engrav. “It’s not really within anybody’s control. It’s dry conditions and wildfires. It’s nature.”
Anyone with permits who were forced to leave or cancel trips will be refunded.
Forest service crews will spend the week evaluating fire risks they will reopen portions of the wilderness and/or some uses when it is safe to do so.
All open and charcoal fires remain banned in the BWCAW and many surrounding counties.