Ham Lake Fire

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.

May 5th:
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!

6 Responses

  1. Craig says:

    Wow, just heard about the fire on MPR. I’ve been going to Tuscarora for about 13 years now (and I think I had some math classes with you at the U. . . Geometry maybe?). I’m glad to hear that everyone is alright and Tuscarora is ok (minus one building). I breathed a sigh of relief after reading your posting, thanks for putting up the news.

  2. Silverlake says:

    John White Indiana
    Hi There
    Is the fire out (Ham Lake Fire)

  3. Tammy Reinke says:

    Hi may name is Tammy. I am Mike Reinke, your newest staff member’s, mother. I’m thankful that you are all safe and sound. Sounds like quite a dramatic initiation into the Tuscarora life!
    Thanks for calling this morning to let us know all was fine. We’re checking the news on the web frequently throughout the day for updates. We anxiously await your next posting.
    Love you Mike!

  4. ~a says:

    I just heard…

    will be checking in off an on.



    see you in a few weeks!

  5. ewla says:

    Additional information can also be found online at:




  6. eroon89 says:

    hey I used to live up in Tuscarora. My family moved in after Mr. and Mrs. Leads moved out. If the building im thinking about is the one by the house before the “Blind Hill” sign then that is amazingly lucky. I never did like that, always mice running around whenever I wanted to get my bike out. It’s to bad it happened. I definitely need to get back up there soon though. I’ve only been up there once since we moved out and that was a year or two after the blowdown. I’m glad Tuscarora is still goin strong! Hope you pull out on top and that no death toll is announced and that everyone else comes out well too. Hope I can see Tuscarora again soon.