How can wildfires in Canada affect your vacation? And what can you do to stay fire safe while visiting the North Shore? This week’s blog post touches on these two very important topics.
Wildfires in Canada
It would seem strange to think that a cluster of wildfires burning over 100 miles away and in a different country could somehow affect your vacation on the North Shore. However, this past week, we experienced just how this is possible.
Canada is currently fighting over 180 wildfires due to an unusually hot, dry summer. A jet stream system that passed over the US and Canada on Sunday and Monday brought down a plume of smoke. Primarily smoke coming from almost 30 wildfires currently burning in Ontario and Manitoba.
The smoke plume created hazy conditions and spurred the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an Air Quality Alert over the entire Arrowhead region in Northern Minnesota. A bit of rain and a change of wind direction on Tuesday cleared the air, for now. As Canada battles one of the worst fire seasons ever recorded, more hazy days may be in our future.
What Do To During An Air Quality Alert
The air was hazy and smelled strongly of smoke anywhere you went on Monday this week. It was so thick and low that you could barely see Grand Marais from the Pincushion Mountain Overlook. Even though the day itself was sunny and cloud-free. When smoke gets that bad, it could be unhealthy for “sensitive groups”. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, “sensitive groups” include those with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, children, and older adults.
Those who fall into these categories were encouraged to use caution when outdoors. If having to be outdoors, heavy exertion is discouraged. Staying indoors would be best.
If you happen to be visiting this summer and notice a smoky smell and haziness to the air, take a look at Boreal Community Media’s website. They do a great job at posting Air Quality Alerts. You can also listen to live news shows on WTIP at 7-10 am and noon for fire danger levels and smoke hazards. So far, we’ve recorded quite a few days where the smell of smoke lingers heavily in the air, but only one day with the Air Quality Alert. However, it’s only the first week in July and there is a lot of summer days left.
What NOT To Do During High Fire Danger
In addition to the wildfires in Canada, the area has already experienced more wildfires than usual. One in May closed down a BWCA entry point near Ely. It also caused the evacuation of several cabins in the area. A backfiring truck caused a series of fires along Highway 61 near Tettegouche State Park that burned several acres earlier this summer, as well. Just this week another fire started burning in the BWCA between Isabella and Ely. We’ve already seen a very active fire season in Minnesota.
On Monday, in addition to the smoke in the air, the temperatures hit 97 degrees F right in Grand Marais- at the Harbor! Lake Superior usually does a great job at keeping temps near the lake cooler, rarely do we see temps even in the 80s. But as the hot air came from the west, along with the smoke came soaring temperatures.
This summer also brought several “High” fire danger days. As we get into the warmer part of summer, we expect to have many more. For this reason, we ask guests to use caution while visiting the North Shore. If the fire danger signs in the area are at “High” or above, you should not be having campfires, including in designated fire rings. As one loose spark could ignite already dry foliage and spread quickly.
Caution should also be used when using outdoor grills. Especially charcoal grills as sparks are easily released. Do not use a grill in high grass and do not leave a grill unattended.
As Smoky the Bear Says…
We just have to look to our neighbors to the north and see how devastating the wildfires in Canada have been this summer to realize we are just one spark away from being in the same situation. In British Columbia, the small town of Lytton has essentially burned to the ground earlier this month. We want to do our part to prevent more fires from starting.
In general, always be aware of the fire danger in the area. Also, be aware that all of the North Shore and Gunflint Trail fire departments are volunteer-run. It may take some time for a truck to reach more remote areas. Even though our fire departments are incredibly and efficient. One out-of-control spark could quickly lead to many acres being burned, which may include several homes and cabins. So please, if the temps are hot, the air is dry, and the fire danger signs read “High”, forgo your campfire and BBQ that day. If you need them, do not hesitate to call emergency services. The faster you can call them, the faster they can come help.
Thank you for doing your part to help keep everyone safe this unusually hot, dry summer!