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Ban on campfires lifted at most Superior National Forest campgrounds

The Forest Service has loosened fire restrictions amid the change in seasons.

Cooler, wetter weather has reduced the fire danger in northeastern Minnesota, prompting the ban on campfires to be lifted at many drive-in campgrounds in the Superior National Forest.

The Forest Service, effective Sept. 9, loosened fire restrictions to allow campfires at most fee campgrounds in the Superior National Forest.

Campfires are now allowed in designated fire rings at these campgrounds: Devils Track, East Bearskin, Flour Lake, Kimball Lake, Two Island Lake, Birch Lake, Fall Lake, Fenske Lake, South Kawishiwi River, Echo Lake, Lake Jeanette, Cadotte Lake, Pfeiffer Lake, Whiteface Reservoir, Crescent Lake, Divide Lake, Ninemile Lake, Sawbill Lake and Temperance River.

Gas- or propane-powered devices with on/off switches are also allowed, including stoves and lanterns.

Last week, the Forest Service said dispersed camping could resume in the Superior National Forest and it reopened a portion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness after a two-week closure due to wildfires. 

The Forest Service says the state is still experiencing drought conditions, and with the right fuel and weather conditions, a fire could take hold, so some restrictions remain in place:

  • Campgrounds at Trails End, Iron Lake, McDougal Lake and Little Isabella are still entirely closed to the public due to ongoing wildfires
  •  Campfires are still banned at all remote campsites in the forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, even with a designated fire grate.
  • Open flames, including tiki torches, charcoal grills and barbeques are not allowed. 

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week adjusted burning restrictions thanks to improved conditions. However, 16 counties still have restrictions, which impact 44 state forests and 27 state parks.

Campfires are still banned at dispersed/backcountry camping sites, among other restrictions. While, attended campfires at cabins, homes and campgrounds are allowed in established fire rings as are gas-powered stoves. 

The counties impacted are: Beltrami, Becker, Cass, Clearwater, Cook, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Ottertail, St. Louis, and Wadena, as well as the eastern portion of Roseau County. 

No campfires are allowed at Devilfish Lake, Esther Lake and McFarland Lake campgrounds in the Grand Portage State Forest in Cook County, the DNR says. 

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Areas around the Greenwood Fire in Lake County and the John Ek and Whelp fires near the Gunflint Trail in Cook County are still closed, which means all lands, waters, trails, portages, canoe routes and recreation sites within the closure areas are closed. This does impact the Superior National Forest, as well as state lands, including the Finland State Forest, Bear Island State Forest and Sand Lake Peatlands SNA. 

Other national lands also have burning restrictions. Voyageurs National Park and the Chippewa National Forest continue to ban campfires and charcoal grills.

NE Minnesota wildfires

Several wildfires quickly spread across drought-stricken northern Minnesota in August, but as the weather turned cooler and wetter toward the end of the month and into September, conditions have improved.

And the Duluth News Tribune says no new fires have been reported in September.

Improved conditions have helped fire crews contain more of the Greenwood Fire, which started on Aug. 15 from a lightning strike about 10 miles southwest of Isabella in Lake County. The blaze has burned about 26,112 acres and is now 49% contained. 

Fire officials say rain in the area hasn't been enough to penetrate into the deep peat soil, where the fire is still active. 

Meanwhile, the John Ek and Whelp fires, which also started by lighting, in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Cook County are much smaller — 1,357 acres and 50 acres, respectively — and are 0% contained. 

Fire movement with these fires has been minimal as of late, but the fire continues to "creep and smolder" in the deep duff layers, according to the Incident Information System.

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