Lightning strike sparks another fire in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Crews used a helicopter to help locate hotspots Thursday morning.
Publish date:
The Hassel Fire.

The Hassel Fire.

For the second time in recent weeks, a lightning strike has caused a wildfire in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (NWCAW).

Authorities first detected the wildfire on June 4 just southwest of Hassel Lake (which is about 10 miles northeast of Tower, Minnesota) in the BWCAW. While the fire is small, its location " is away from any lakes or portages north of Boulder Lake so access on the ground is difficult," the Superior National Forest said in an update.

There are currently 27 personnel on the scene, according to the Incident Information System, with a food resupply on the way for those responders camping in the wilderness.

Since then, firefighters have worked to map and control the Hassel Fire, which is about 50% contained as of Thursday morning, according to Superior National Forest. It's estimated to be about 21 acres in size, and there are a handful of lake, campsite and portage closures still in effect.

But  they've made "good progress" in terms of keeping the fire small and contained, Tim Engrav, public information officer with the Superior National Forest, told Bring Me The News. Crews have pumps and water hose lines around most of the fire, and on Thursday morning they used an infrared helicopter to locate hotspots that need to be addressed.

While temperatures have been quite high, an increase in humidity and a few bursts of rain have helped keep a lid on the blaze, Engrav said. 

In mid-May, crews battled the significantly larger Bezhik Wildifre a bit to the Hassel Fire's north. That one, also believed to be caused by a lightning strike, grew to more than 900 acres, moving through the forest and destroying some private property, including a cabin.

Engrav said the safety of people and property is always a concern, and something they're monitoring with the Hassel Fire as well. 

As for damage to the BWCAW itself, Engrav said the landscape's signature boreal forest "is a fire-dependent ecosystem, historically," with fires moving through the area pre-European settlement. (Though research suggests fires are occurring more frequently in these forests, which is a cause for concern.)

"If fire stays in the understory, and doesn't reach up into the crowns of the trees, it actually can have some ecological benefit," he said, noting the red and white pine stands "can handle ground fire moving through, and it actually helps them."

It's when the flames reach the high tops of the canopy that the fire can become quite damaging, burning through ecologically valuable tree species and spreading more rapidly.

The plan for the Hassel Fire now is to begin attacking its edges, moving inward toward the interior to extinguish pockets of heat, Engrav said. And while conditions can always change, "things are looking good" for keeping the blaze contained. 

Next Up

Danielle Hunter

Report: Danielle Hunter will attend mandatory minicamp

The big question is if he and the Vikings have worked out a new contract.

enbridge energy line 3

MN appeals court upholds Line 3 pipeline approval

The decision is a blow to Tribal leaders and environmentalists fighting the project.

Pixabay - police crime tape do not cross stock

Update: Standoff with barricaded suspect in Cannon Falls ends

The man had entered a multi-family building and stopped communicating.

1200 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota - May 2019

Victim of shooting outside funeral in Minneapolis identified

Dontevius Ahmad Catchings was shot outside the Shiloh Temple, where a funeral for one of the victims of a May shooting was taking place.

Screen Shot 2021-06-14 at 8.45.06 AM

Loved ones identify woman killed in Uptown as Deona Marie Knajdek

She was among the protestors Sunday night when a motorist drove through the crowd.

hutchinson health hospital

Hutchinson Hospital forgives $184K in medical debt following settlement

The AG's office accused the nonprofit hospital of violating a regulatory agreement.


Chaska man seriously injured in waterskiing accident

The 24-year-old was airlifted to a hospital.

Flickr - beach water

9-year-old dies after drowning in Carver Lake in Woodbury

The incident follows a string of drownings in Minnesota over the weekend.

3001 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota - August 2017

Owner closes JUUT in Uptown, cites 'escalating crime and violence'

JUUT is closed after 35 years at the Hennepin and Lake Street location.


Facebook Bezhik Fire crop

Wildfire begins pushing out of Boundary Waters, toward private property

The fire is estimated to be more than 900 acres in size.

Facebook - Bezhik Fire May 18 - Tony Harding_USDA Forest Service

Bezhik Fire destroys 4 structures, including a cabin

Responders say it is about 30% contained at this point.

Lightning strikes spark five new fires in Superior National Forest

A Tuesday night storm that passed through the Superior National Forest was a lose-lose for firefighters: it generated very little rain but plenty of lightning. A fire that's been burning since Sunday is a little bigger, but is now about 40 percent contained. Meanwhile, five smaller fires were started by lightning strikes.

Screen Shot 2020-09-15 at 8.59.19 AM

Walz sends Minnesota firefighters, trucks to Oregon wildfires

Minnesota will send 29 firefighters and nine trucks to help with wildfires across Oregon.

Crews continue to battle BWCA fire

Ground crews are still battling the Cummings Lake fire Monday near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The fire, which started Sunday afternoon, is now about 20 acres in size and is located in a lowland area about 12 miles northwest of Ely. Five aircraft were attacking a 50-acre fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on Sunday night not far from Ely, the Duluth News Tribune reports. Crews were on their way to the remote site.

Lightning strike suspected in house fire near Prior Lake

It happened as thunderstorms passed through Minnesota on Wednesday.