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Tuesday, 13 September 2011


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"Strangely, sometimes it smells good, like burning leaves, and sometimes it smells bad, like a chemical plant is what's on fire. Strange."

Well, the former is probably burning leaves. The later is probably burning bears.

Sometime around 2002, I was on a business trip to Singapore, and there was always the smell of smoke in the air, along with a bit of haze. Turned out to be a massive forest fire in Indonesia, a couple of hundred miles away, with a large body of water in the middle.

Welcome to my world. The Great Dismal Swamp in SE Virginia has been burning all summer. Even Hurricane Irene and her feet of rain could not not extinguish it - the beauty of a deep peat fire :( Some mornings nuts, some shells. Today is a 'hell of a morning.

Here in central Texas I'm seeing the sorts of impact that giant wildfires like this can cause. I wasn't aware of this fire in Minnesota. I hope the impact to people and homes is minimal. It's a little surprising to me to read about a fire that large around so much water.

"Strangely, sometimes it smells good, like burning leaves, and sometimes it smells bad, like a chemical plant is what's on fire. Strange."
Actually, if they are (most likely) dropping chemical fire suppressants from aircraft, that nasty smell is probably the result of the fire hitting the chemicals. Unfortunately, the fire doesn't normally just go out like turning off the gas stove.

an animated gif here: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/mkx/2011/mn-fire.gif

and some fairly dramatic pictures on the ground here:


We were getting the smell from the same fire in Toronto 1300 KM away.
Thunder Bay had reduced visability.

I took several of the photos linked by Timo. The fire generated its own thunderstorm which felt like the end of the world. The hair stood up on the back of my neck as I photographed the storm coming through Grand Marais, MN, which is about 35 miles from the fire. Here are a few photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.215280785198312.52242.122323837827341&type=1

The Pagami Creek fire is especially poignant for me. Seventeen years ago next week my wife and I honeymooned in the Boundary Waters, canoeing and portaging a 60-mile loop just north of the current fire area, and exiting at Lake One. Most of our route was devastated in 1999 by a windstorm that blew down many if not most of the trees, and now the fire is threatening the southern part of our route that was not affected. Only a week or two ago we were talking about returning to Lake One this month if we could get away.

In reply to some of the other comments, so far the fire has not consumed any buildings that I know of. Most of the fire has remained within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Area, where no roads or buildings are permitted, except for a few ranger cabins. Though there are many lakes in the area, which provide a source of water with which to fight the fire, the northeastern corner of Minnesota, known as the Arrowhead, has suffered a drought this summer, which has dried out the vegetation. With the wind shifting to the south today, there is concern that the fire will explode into new life if it reaches the dried-out tinder in the 1999 blowdown area. Then it may indeed threaten the resorts and other private property along the Gunfint Trail.

Access to the affected area is difficult. Transportation into the area for most of the firefighters and their gear is by boot and canoe.

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