It’s been so dry. We were returning from installing the dock on Sag on Friday and spotted the orange snowmobile fence on the hill; Andy and I both thought the orange was fire for a split second. I thought—“wow, what if a fire started in our back yard?”—we always seem to have so much warning.
We ate our dinner on the deck—a beautiful warm night, and when the kids left the table we spoke in low tones—this feels too eerie. It isn’t right for early spring. We were glad that the leaves are starting to pop—the green foliage makes it seem much less dry.
We spoke briefly as we woke up on Saturday about the busy day ahead. We had started to joke about our fire paranoia. “Doesn’t it feel like a farce to just rush through the activities, as if all is going to be normal?” Later in the morning when Andy came in he said “Do you smell smoke?” I didn’t—I thought we were letting our imaginations get away with us.
At about 11:30 Andy came rushing in the door—“Call the Forest Service, there’s a fire” then he left. I called the Forest Service, a few neighbors—it was so close to us, the smoke was blowing our way, no one else knew.
So, the kids and I sort of stumbled through a“fire drill”—they grabbed some important things—we evacuated. As we were driving out, flames were on both sides of the road, the tops of trees were falling and igniting the grass like kindling. The snowshoe hares were hopping. Everything happened so fast. We got to the mailbox and looked back—the kids worried, said they had no idea it could happen like that. We were all shaken.
We watched and wondered what was burning—more fire fighters and airplanes arrived. After some time had passed, we were escorted back in. As we drove down the road, the Cross River looked the same—a favorite view of mine—then as we approached the Cross Bay Parking Lot we could see flames lingering—where the fire had crossed the road. As we drove on—-it was unbelievable the devastation that happened within about an hour. My heart sank as I wondered about our home.
Then to Tuscarora—which felt like a little oasis. You can see that it looks the same, except for the red retardant that they painted the place with—from the air. Very smoky—but it looked as though we eked through. The kids say—now we are completely safe—we have a fire ring around us! The shores of Round Lake didn’t burn—a narrow strip from Ham Lake, through the woods, down the access road, then beyond.
With Jake and Mike, our two new staff members—-( trial by fire—we quickly had to show Mike how to lift a canoe-)–we loaded all of the Kevlar canoes—a fuel source—and left them temporarily on trailers at Gunflint Outfitters. The planes dropped foam all afternoon—protecting the canoe yard.
By evening, I left to get the kids and sleep in a cabin with a phone—offered to us by our neighbors at Gunflint Pines. Sprinkler systems had been set up, they were hoping to turn the power back on, a crew of fire fighters (and Andy) were staying the night to keep an eye on hot spots. It is done.
According to initial—unconfirmed reports—the fire had started on the narrows campsite on Ham Lake. The campers had moved on. Perhaps some embers were not completely cool?? The fire was narrow—on the map its footprint looks like a cigar—and had progressed to Honker Lake—the winds were from the south east.
We lost one shed near the house at the back of the Tuscarora property. (The back house is not part of the Tuscarora base—most guests have never been back there). The back house is fine—-although the fire burned fairly hotly around it. They say it was protected by its grassy yard.
Please bear with us as we get our phones up and running. We’ll keep you posted. All is well at Tuscarora—needless to say, we have fabulous and generous neighbors. We had a May 5th to remember!