Thursday, May 31, 2007


Finally, after following what feels like a hundred dead ends, I have a summer job!

I get to be a dog wrangler at Dog Days daycare, just two blocks away! The best part is, after I've worked there for a month or so, Winnie Boo gets to come to work with me! The pay isn't great, but the commute is the shortest I've ever had and I get to play with puppies all day :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Google map fun

Google maps has done it again, this time with "Street View." Right now its just a few cities, but for example here is where I lived when I was in New York last year. You can rotate 360˚ and then "drive" all over the city. They must have had a van with a panoramic camera taking shots every few feet, tied that info to GPS, and the figured out how to map that all together perfectly.

If I had had this last year, I could have taken a virtual walk from the subway to my apartment in NY before I did it in real life. Cool.


Happy Gotcha Day, Winnie Boo!

One year ago today, we were frantically packing up our dorms after graduation so that we could take a long drive to Watertown, Minnesota to pick up our fuzzy girl. Welcome home Pooh Bear!

Friday, May 25, 2007


After a long hiatus Dave and I finally got a brew in yesterday. It took a very long time partially because we had to get together all our equipment that has been in boxes for months, partially because we have not done it for so long, and partially because we were being tricky about it! This was the long talked about lavender beer. Yes we have attempted to imbue the flavor of the lavender flower using .2 oz of dried flowers to 5 gallons of liquid.

Here is a photo of it bubbling away in our laundry room here. It smells distinctly like juniper and lavender right now, who knows what it will taste like!

You can also see that I am going to need to build some more shelving in the brewing nook. Its kind of a pile right now.

Tonight Megan and I had a ridiculously balanced and responsible night. After I got home from work we...

- Walked to our local co-op to buy some local organic turkey (using our own bag) and bread crumbs
- Cooked dinner
- Cleaned the apartment
– Worked out at the exercise room they have here (very nice)
- Came home and did our finances

I feel like I should eat some ice cream mixed with beer or something just to mess things up a little. Well come to think of it...

Dog park!

Today was my second official day of freedom, so Winnie and I celebrated with a long walk through the airport dog park..... pictures!

Winnie, wanna go to the park?

Winnie challenges a cocker spaniel to a chase


Winnie wins!

Relaxing in the dandelions

Streamlined corgi

It wouldn't be a happy dog park trip if it didn't include a roll in the dirt...

Let's go home!

Time for a nap... Winnie loffs her lobster.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1/4 of the way to a DVM

I finished my 20-hour-long preceptorship this afternoon, which was the last official assignment of my first year! Part of me feels like the year flew by, and another part feels like St. Olaf graduation was soooo long ago... Both are probably true. At this time last year I didn't even know that I was accepted to vet school!

I'm still waiting to hear from the St. Paul shelter about summer work, but I did get accepted to the Widlife Rehab Center's internship program for the second half of the summer... Short-term plans are sleeping a lot, hanging out with Winnie, and learning how to get around St. Paul by bike. Come visit me while I'm not stressed out from school for a change!

Northfield blogging

Ahh blogging in the slow lane lately. I am hanging out in Northfield right now at the old and now empty 1740 doing even more cleaning. My life right now is all about streamlining. At the start of this week I had 2 homes (Northfield and St. Paul), 2 jobs (St. Olaf and Macalister), a dirty studio, and a show up in Northfield. The final goal will be end all business in Northfield.

But yesterday I took down my show in Northfield (the webpage is still up of course), am going to be out of my studio today, and hopefully out of my town house here today as well. I just made a big trip to the Rice county recycling center to drop off all the toxic stuff I have accumulated from car repair since last May! They took it all for free, go recycling. On June 1 my lease here runs out, and on August 31 st my contract with St. Olaf runs out, and that will be that for now.

I also signed the paper work for my Macalister job this morning. Way more than St. Olaf! I had to basically had to re-write my resume from memory and then even go home and get some phone numbers. But thats ok, it is worth it for the Job! I start June first and am eager to get going.

Thats all for now. During all this cleaning and removing my self compleatly from Northfield I keep generating more boxes of junk that are now filling the loft. So more cleaning and unpacking to go! Streamlining, streamlining...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Plant Blogging

Megan and I have been collecting plants the past few weeks and have managed to turn our little apartment into a green house! And we arn't even done yet I don't think. We had a growing fungus gnat problem and discovered that our peppers and cilantro were covered in evil aphids! So we went the the store today and bought some Bon-Neem insecticidal soap at the advice of a knowledgeable employe of Linders. I wanted to buy something a little more powerful (read toxic bug killer) but she said that would be overkill. It seemed to work really well, the gnats are gone. It says to re-apply in a week to make sure they are all dead.

After closer inspection, lots of our plants had some aphids but none as bad as those peppers and cilantro, whom we threw away. The thread that linked them all together was they call came from the undergrad plant sale at the U of M. Boo undergrad.

Anyway, the amount of plants around here is pretty fun. We have

- a tray of lettuce greens (x3) and mustard greens (x3)
- Lemon Verbena
- Bay leaf
- Curry plant
- Parsley
- Sage
- Rosemary
- Thyme (yes like the song)
- Lavender
- Jade
- two Dark Opal basil (purple)
- one cinnamon basil
- two sweet basil
- one lettuce leaf basil
- Gold fish plant
- Apple mint
- ???? mint
- Jasmine
- climbing nasturtium
- cherry tomatoes (x3 in 1 pot)
- venus fly trap
- white cedar bonsai
- ficus bonsai

Wow! Thats a lot! I think we are going to give up the peppers, but I want the cilantro back and perhaps some more flowers. Right now most things are eatable. Today we were wondering what came first, did the huge south windows bring about the plants or did having plants make us get the south windows? I think its a little bit of both, but it works out great anyway!

Grades so far

They are rolling in....

Organology: B
Neurology: B
Physiology: B
Pharmacology: A
Immunology: C
Virology: A-
Genetics: A
Large Mammal seminar: B

Still waiting on Clinical Skills and Behavior... I am doing almost as well as last semester, and it was a far heavier course load, so I'm happy!

Good things come to those who wait?

Hmm, as I was moments away from sending in my application for the Golden Valley shelter job, this email popped up in my inbox:

Hi guys,

The St. Paul shelter just announced that we will be hiring 2 Vet
Students for the summer to work as Vet Techs. Your knowledge will help
us in the shelter environment and you will gain experience working
beside our Vets and Techs.

Pass this along to anyone who may be interested.

Uhhhh.... Mine?

Friday, May 18, 2007

New Job! Macalester here I come...

I have been offered and accepted the position of Visual Resource Assistant at Macalester College starting June 1st. I will continue to work for St. Olaf as Visual Resource Curator until August 31st when my contract with them expires. The job search to find my replacement is already underway. My only condition that needs to be worked out with Mac HR is to change the title to Visual Resource Curator because it is virtually identical to the position I am in now at St. Olaf and I don't want it to look like a demotion on my resume. Everything else is great, it is virtually the same pay rate I receive at St. Olaf but 20 hours a week instead of 10. It is also only about 2 miles away instead of nearly 50, so I will be saving about $25 on gas a week! I also have access to their health care package that I can buy into if I wish, and I will remain in an academic setting which I like.

In my phone interview, there was also talk about possibly transforming this position from a part time hourly, to a full time salaried position in a year. That is still to far to really plan for, but the excitement and energy behind this position really has me excited for its possibilities.

I am looking forward to getting things started up again and applying what I have learned at St. Olaf to to Macalester. And to think, all this started four years ago when I needed to find a job while Megan took organic chemistry. Funny how that works.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Life at the end of the year

Today was the very last lecture of my first year of vet school...! It doesn't quite feel like the end of the year because we still have a few things to finish (a talk to high schoolers about the link between animal abuse and violence against people, a practical exam on conducting a physical, 14 hours' worth of my preceptorship, and a behavior final), but at least there's no more sitting for hours in room 125! Winnie spent two whole days at school this week as an unwilling volunteer for the physical exam labs, but after being palpated a hundred times, she had a great time hanging out with everyone else's dogs all day. Since my parking permit expired with the end of the undergrad school year last week, I've had to park off campus, which gave me and Win a good reason for a nice long morning and afternoon walk every day.

I've been poking around for jobs for months now with no real luck. I keep following leads that sound good, but end up falling through or not sounding as good as I thought they did. My newest idea is working as an animal care person at the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.... wish me luck! At the very least, I got the six week long internship at the Wildlife
Rehab Clinic, so that will give me the clinical experience that I really wanted this summer. I also signed up for a shift at the Miracle of Birth center at the State Fair... yay baby animals!

We had our housewarming party on Saturday, which was both a lot of fun and a great way to force us to unpack and clean up. I think we counted 23 people who came. Thanks to everyone who made it! We'll post pictures soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

10 AM recap

I missed the 10:00 AM meeting this morning again, but I got the recap here.

• From here on out, 1 meeting a day at 10:00 AM
• Gunflint lake and Loon lake open.
• US parameter holding today
• The finger will be enclosed today
• Hot-spot work now, crews with in 100 ft.
• BWCA still closed
• No fires! No welding! Only gas/propane
• Canada side still growing, optimistic the fire will be more in control by this weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

7:00 PM update

Came late to this one, they sound like they are giving a powerpoint about fire fighting. What strikes me about this press conference is how much of a wrap up it is...

(Ok, 8:00 post of the first half of the 7:00 update)
• Fire did not grow much today. 1,000 Acres in Canada, none is U.S.
• Drizzle all day, high humidity
• 20% of fire contained, 55% on US side.
• 4 fires in Ontario, this one is the least critical! They are very stretched.
• US teams going up north to help out.
• 1 structure lost today on Sag (Canada), no additional loss. Confidant there will be no more.
• US side, not much happened besides line building.
• Media says "fire out" by sunday, not true. Fire will be contained by sunday, but it might not be out for months.
• Firefighters will be around all summer on this fire.
• But, contained by sunday!
• Thursday, seagull and sag people can get passes to return home for the afternoon.
• Owners on Gunflint and Loon can return noon tomorrow, no conditions. Electric is spotty, talk to the company.
• All of the areas outside the BWCA open for recreation. BWCA is still closed.
• Weather is key, weather has helped us. Along with the 1,100 people helping out.

(Ok thats the whole thing, time for me to dive home to St. Paul)

• Canada is hard to fight fire in
• The 120 mi+ is the parameter of the fire. Not the entire area is burned, but rather is a patchwork.
• The north shore of gunflint lake was a hot crown fire, not much you can do.
• Sprinkler systems have been vital to firefighting. Sprinkler + firefighters is very very good
• the burn out/back burns
• Intentional burns to stop fire
• Very effective around Gunflint and Loon
• This fire used a lot of air support.
• The forest is renewing it self already, lots of green in black places already!

• Re-cap
• Move road closure up to cross river
• Thursday, property owners can get passes to get to their property
• Meeting tomorrow 10 AM and 7 PM with guests from Canada

Rebroadcast at 8:00, I will catch the front end of that

WTIP update: 3:00 PM

• Chance of rain tonight, lows around 35 (brr) There is a chance of frost on monday night!
• Property tax pushed back to June 15th to every one in the evacuated area. Also applies to the caution area.
• 12:00 - 4:00 access on thursday for residents north of round lake
• A plan for access to Gunflint and Loon is in the works. More info on this at 7:00 tonight

 Report from beyond the roadblock from WTIP news
• Madonna, "fire mom" leads a crew of 25
• worked for 25 years fighting fires, this was biggest smoke column she has ever seen
• Strange fire, the way it wrapped around
• No one sleeps, exhaustion is a big problem

Please support WTIP for getting out all this great information!! Go to to make a donation.


Lots of work today, so I missed the AM fire update but the MNICS press release has gotten quite good at being up to date with what they say at their meetings. The real problem now seems to be in Canada where the fire increased in size 13,000 acres which is a little over 20 square miles in a day. That brings the total size of the fire to about 117 square miles with now over half that in Canada. 20% of the entire fire is contained, but 50% of the US side is contained. All this puts the fire fighting effort at around $6 million.

The front that moved in brought cool dry air, and winds from the north west at 8-14 mph.

Also, people north of round lake will be allowed back to inspect their property this thursday according to this press release. They will have to leave, but at least they can assess the damage them selves.

I am getting a lot of news from the Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters News as they have a first person view of whats going on. Apparently they had a nice damp morning today.

In fact, a lot of the local blogs that went down during the evacuation are going up again. You can find a large list here at

Monday, May 14, 2007

Late night update

Well I missed the 7:00 AND 10:00 WTIP updates but I have gathered a few links to make up for it.

Tuscarora blog has a good first person assessment of the fire that goes along with an NPR piece that I heard. The point being that even though portions of the fire have blackened everything, large parts of it have left things is a patchwork of trees ready to spring back.

MNICS put out their news release at 6:00 about the fire. Basic outline being there was good progress today on the fire with 20% now contained. The Canadian side seems like the bad spot to be right now. The "finger" area has been pretty well contained with brute force and the cooperation of the winds.

It is my feeling now that the real danger has passed on this fire, at least on the US side of it. With the rain and the low winds, the crews up there have gotten a good hold on the dangerous areas. A big wind could always change things, but as of right now I feel that at least the east bearskin is safe. It is good to know that the sprinkler systems that seemed so dubious when we installed them years ago work as well as they do, so if the next campfire that blows out of control is 1 or 2 miles away instead of 20 or 30, we know there is protection that works.

Hopefully I can catch tomorrows 10:00 AM fire update, and I will carry that on here as usual.

10:00 Fire update

Alright, interview over (went very well, I will post more about it if I get the job) and I got the info on the 10:00 AM fire update from my mom who I conscripted into the blogging effort.

• Will provide info as confirmed
• Division E and B between Loon Lake and Mayhew burned yesterday successfully, working toward Mayhew today
• Good news last night - some rain.
• Got all 3 - wind, rain and lightning
• 1/10 inch at Gunflint location. 1/2 inch in Grand Marais.
• Does reduce fire behavior, gives reprieve.
• Lightning strikes will be patrolled by air several times/day for next few days.
• People on standby in anticipation of fire starts from lightning.
• Fire on Red Pine Island
• Focus will continue to be finger between Loon, Gunflint, South Lake and Mayhew.
• Heavy fog in Ely area may impede some of aircraft operations until it burns off.
• Black line on map means fire is contained. If black line all around fire, means it is in control. Will be awhile before getting to that point.
• As of today - 20% contained,but fire sometimes gets away again.

She also ads that my dad called in the middle of the broadcast and said that he measured 1/2 inch of rain on East Bearskin. He also said that around 11:00 there was heavy lighting that was quite scary, but then the rain caught up at 1:00 AM. He also heard dynamite going off this morning from the fire lines.

New maps out now too. Here is the interactive map and below is a smaller version of the huge PDF map MNICS put out. Click on the image below for a large version.


I have a job interview this morning at Macalester College for Visual Resource Assistant in the art department. I think I have a good shot as I am currently the curator of the St. Olaf Visual resource collection. I decided to change because the commute is already driving me crazy, and with gas heading towards $4.00 a gallon thats $13 just to get to and back from work! Let alone the time. I could even bike to Macalester no problem as it is a little less than 3 miles away.

Since my interview is at 10:00 and I will miss the WTIP broadcast, but I might be getting an email with it transcribed for me if everything technical works. I will post about it when I can.

For now, here is a good post from Tuscarora Lodge's blog about the fire from the first person. Be sure to check it out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The benefits of forest fire

UPDATE: This entry is getting up there on Google so some background. This post is in reference to the Ham Lake fire that occurred May 2007 in the North Eastern Tip of Minnesota and traveled into Canada. To see all posts on fire, click here. Thanks for visiting!

I took this photo from the Duluth News Tribune to show a bit how fire can be a benefit to our forest even while we are in the midst of the uncertainty and distraction of it all. I think the tribune chose this photo to show the helicopter juxtaposed with the fire, but if you take a look at the fire behavior it's working just like it should.

• All the balsam have burned. These are the most explosive burners and fuel large fires like this to a great extent. Fire is their enemy, as it destroys their seeds as well as the tree. If you remember the spruce bud worm infestation in 1993 was caused by the dense population of balsam (who are killed by the bud worm) that allowed the worm to jump from tree to tree with little pause for hundreds of square miles. Fire breaks the balsam population up so the worm can not travel can cause mass kills such as 93'. In a circular fashion however, all those dead balsam probably made this fire hotter than it otherwise would be!  It will take years free from fire disturbance for the balsam to return to the numbers we see now.

• The red and white pines have survived. This is not always the case, but if a tree is lucky its thick bark protects it from the fire like armor. It is then free to drop its seeds on freshly blackened soil rich in nutrients from the ash, and the seedlings can grow with little to no competition for light for the next decade or so.

• All the birch have burned, but their roots might still be intact. This will allow them to shoot up clones of themselves very rapidly where they will not have to compete for any sunlight. It is a theory that their paper-like bark developed that way to make small fires burn more so their neighbors are killed allowing them to take control. Devious birch trees!

• I don't think I see any here, but the jack pines will flourish like mad after this fire. Unlike the red and white pine who's seeds can sprout with out fire, the jack pine needs fire's high temperatures to open its cones that are shut tight with sap. They have very thin bark so the parent will inevitably get killed, but the heat will open all their pine cones at the top of the tree and over the weeks after a fire they will shower the freshly burned forest floor with thousands and thousands of seeds. How altruistic!

• The edge of the shore here has been left un-burnt, and this is where you will find the cedar trees stretched out over the water. Cedars are very susceptible to fire so they survive by growing in swamps, on lake shores, on rocky crags and so forth. This is why some have survived since the roman empire despite their often diminutive and gnarled appearance.

There are more of course. Trees as well as animals, wild flowers, berries, and lots of birds who all have their ways to deal with the reality of an ecosystem that has been shaped by fire. So even though the fire seems awful and destructive and we are trying desperately to halt its progress as it destroys peoples homes and dreams, there is a reason to the madness and many things will come back stronger than they were last week.

New Map

(Click to enlarge)

New map out on the web now showing their back burn work that stops right at the end of the road on the south side of Gunflint lake, goes down to the north edge of loon, wraps around the east end of loon lake and ends again along the gunflint trail. All the lines in black are the "lines" they keep talking about. Those are not necessarily contained but are edges that are holding for now. This map also illustrates the fingering going on in Canada right now.

This map looks very impressive. I wish I could get a hold of the map they talked about on WTIP showing the recent history of fire in the area. Like I said way back, the only two ways to really stop a fire is for it to either rain or for it to hit an area that has recently burned. Lets hope for rain tonight!

7:00 WTIP update

Live blogging the 7:00 WTIP broadcast of the fire update:

• WTIP is a great source for information
• Growth by rush lake today, also towards the east end of Loon
• The north side of the fire in Canada is growing into more fingers
• Today, strong push by granite river and sag, spotted over to horseshoe island
• large 100' flames in this area
• Canadian officials have evacuated the area on the north of sag
• Not sure how far it has pushed into canada
• Good news is on the "finger"
• Things have held well today
• They have been pushed, active fire on both sides of the gunflint trail
• Nothing beyond the line of the burn out, worked very well
• Active on the southern end of the finger, some spotting occurred to the north and south of rush lake
• Working very hard to get the lines around the finger tied off, new lines built today
• New line by west end of gunflint towards round lake
• New line by seagull on devision "X"
• Planning if conditions allow to build lines by east Mayhew to south lake in anticipation of doing a burn out. Protect the houses on north Mayhew.
• Storms coming
• Storms bring rain, wind and lighting. We don't know what we will get, we hope we get rain and not the other two

• Today was a very good day.
• Worried the winds were going to blow from the west towards poplar lake but didn't happen
• Eventually winds will come out of the west, and if it does we will have to evacuate the Poplar lake area again
• Realistically they will evacuate Poplar again in the next few days
• 2 kinds of evacuation -
• "Cautionary" fire is near, be careful, be prepared to leave at a moments notice
• "Mandatory" fire is here, you are in harms way. You can not be forced to leave
• The way the patterns are looking right now, property owners might be able to get past the road block to check out property up the trail to document the property
• Evacuation is still on, just to allow people to check out their property.
• Middle or end of this week

• Showing a map of salvage logging, previous fires, prescribed burns
• Next meeting tomorrow at 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM. This will be a pattern until you hear otherwise.

Seems like the winds were not as bad as they predicted today! Now we can hope for rain tonight. The forecast still calls for 50% chance of thunderstorms!

Great map!

Forget my Google map, the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) has a great interactive map here that allows you to zoom in and out of the fire location. As you can see the obvious consern is the "finger" leaking towards the west and running over Loon lake and the south edge of Gunflint lake. The burn out occured around Crab lake, directly to the east of Loon lake. I am not sure if this is shown on this map or not. MNICS also have a news release that is quite good. They are doing better communicating with the public after they received some criticism from residents for a lack of info. You can find the entire MNICS web page at

Also I have word that our own comunity at east bearskin is arming its self against this fire, with Moe brining along four retired fireman, a pump, and 1000 feet of hose! The sprinkalers continue to go up where they can along with repairs and such that go along with it.

It still seems like the best chance for rain is tonight and tomorrow, with a 50% chance each. Like the fire comander said, if you have any influcence of this please use it now. Lots of south westerly wind, probably about the worst you could have at this moment I think. Although preceding this rain is a cold front that also brings winds. Lets hope it's worth it and they get a good soalk out of it.


I got an email and spoke to my dad on the phone this morning. He sent along some photos via email that I have attached below, including one of a map that has not been put on the web yet. The photos from honeymoon bluff are of the back burn going on to the south of Gunflint lake. He also said he bought a fishing license, and I assume he will have great luck because he must be one of the only people fishing this opener!

Him and Jim are working down the lake to work on sprinkler systems where they can. The main firefighting resources are so tied up north on the trail that East Bearskin is still low priority. I guess that good news.

He also said it was getting windy today like the forecast said. I hope things stay on the calm side today, or their back burn efforts pay off.

10:00 AM Fire update

The 10:00 AM fire update via WTIP is about to come on. Live blog to follow. (click here for a direct link to the audio)

• The sherif is on his way down the trail, he will be 10 min late. The conference will start then.

• recap of the fire progression, showing maps from day 1
• The most growth on Thursday
• All growth based on wind direction
• Today, out of the SE, 10-15 sustained gusts up to 25
• Last night, did a burn out between gunflint and loon lake
• It went "extremely well"
• We are in a much better position than we were before
• None of this is a grantee

• Showing maps of where they are going to work today
• THe old power-line between gunflint and loon
• It is a "hand line" to help stop spotting
• What we need is a wind from both directions (E/W) at the same time. heh.
• Fire is now 15% contained
• Much of the fire has cooled down
• Canadians are trying to prevent it from going further east, looking at a possible burn out today.
• The burn outs have been the most effective tactic so far
• The US and Canadian coordination has been seamless (weather data, equipment, people)

Temp: 60s
Humidity: 30-35%
Wind: 10-15 (25) SE

• Sherif speaking
• If things get worse, evacuations may resume
• You can't get arrested if you don't evacuate
• But is distracts from protecting other structures because they have to protect you above all else
• Looking at evacuating trail center area again today
• Middle and end of this week, the road blocks might be opened to allow people back to their property
• Meetings tonight at 7:00 at Poplar lake and Grand Marais center for the arts

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Late night fire update

Sorry all, I missed the 7:00 PM fire update due to the housewarming party, but I am on the 9:00 WTIP broadcast. Live blog to follow.

• concern is the "finger"
• One bit went out to the east end of loon lake, but ok because it hit the burn out area and stopped.
• There was growth on the north end of the finger
• Growth east and west near rush lake (end of the finger), and entering blowdown area. This is a concern.
• The back burn is in progress now (7:00 PM)
• 53,000 acres (+700 today)
• USA: 30,000 Canada: 22,0000
• 134 structures lost total in US and Canada

• Today was a good day
• Evacuations lifted, from Poplar lake fire hall to west of Voyager point
• Did this because the winds were going the right direction
• Controlled burned occurred later than expected
• Main structure protection on loon and Gunflint
• Today was good, tomorrow looks not so good.
• Tomorrow wind out of the south west
• This might cause a re-decleration of evacuations tomorrow
• Showing a map of controlled burns
• These burns have helped us control this fire
• Back burn is directly south of Gunflint by loon
• Main concern is the finger pushing west or east
• Sag and Seagull has cooled down significantly, thinking about letting people in early next week (on temp basis)

• 10:00 AM meeting tomorrow


- partly cloudy
- chance of rain
- SE 10-15
- humidity 80%

Evacuation update

"Effective at 12:00 PM on 5/12/07, the cautionary evacuation area between Poplar Lake Fire Hall and Swamper Lake is being lifted. Also, the Mandatory/Imminent Evacuation area between the Poplar Lake Fire Hall and Voyageur Point (County Road 85) is being lifted."

I have updated the Google map to reflect this. I have also added a yellow box to show where roughly where the prescribed back burn will be today. Keep in mind this is a wild guess and only shows the area they are talking about, not necessarily where its borders will fall.

10:00 AM Ham lake fire update

Live blogging the 10:00 AM Ham lake fire update at the Grand Marais Center for the arts broadcast via WTIP.

•Playing "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

• Mark VanIrving from the FS.
• Yesterday no appreciable growth
• Weather today, clear and sunny
• light winds 5 mph from the east
• low humidity ~ 25%
• Tomorrow wind from SE, temp around 60
Wind tomorrow, 15 mph possible 30 mph gusts
• So today, another burn out operation on the west side of the "finger"
• Begin the burn out at gunflint, towards loon, towards the fire.
• Exactly the same thing they did on wednesday to protect gunflint lodge.
• Previous prescribed burning has been extremely important to fight this fire, slowed movement, provides "base"
• Today also working on "Dev X" by Sag
• Hoping for a good burn out today
• Meeting tonight some time, some where about how the burn out went

• There is still a fire (heh)
• Evacuation moved back!
• New block at CR 85
• Poplar lake, Hungry Jack now under recommended evacuation, not mandatory

• Elected officials in town (congress members, state reps)
• they are talking

• There will be more meetings for info tonight, somewhere at some time

Friday, May 11, 2007

No news, good news

Well no news tonight, but I think thats a good thing. I did snag this radar clip of what appears to be some showers running over the entire BWCA. Also, the forecast calls for a 40% chance for thunderstorms on saturday and saturday night, and then a 30% chance on monday. Good news.


Ok for the first time in days it seems something NOT fire related! Megan and I are having our housewarming party for our new apartment! It is from 3:00 ~ 7:00 PM tomorrow (saturday) and we have food and drink for any one who stops by. We are very excited to be living here and we would love to have people over!

We are at the corner of Carleton and University in St. Paul, right off the 280 exit from 94. (map) There is lots of parking in the back. To get in, you have to go to the back door and find us in the directory to call us, and we will let you in. Then go up to the second floor and walk alllllll the way to the front of the building, and we are in apartment 213!

If you can't make it no worries, we are around and want you over some other day!

New Map

New map out, it looks good:

7:00 PM update

Live blogging the 7:00 PM conference on WTIP

• Good weather today! "Very good day"
• Lots of clouds, low winds, low temp
• Still, no additional structure losses last night and today. Total structures lost 134 (phew 44 on the wilderness outpost alone)
• $3.7 million lost
• "Good news and more good news"
• Sag is cooling down
• all lines around the fire held today
• The controlled back burn (on wed) was a 100% success and saved the south side of gunflint. It is also cooling off
• The "finger" is more narrow and more west than the map shows
• The "finger" missed all structures

• 25 teams of 5 fire engines "strike teams" on structure protection
• Bulldozer line off power-line to protect loon and gunflint
• Tomorrow, wind coming out of the east, south east, could push back towards Gunflint
• Info is difficult to transmit. Mostly done by car.

• This fire is not out. If there is more wind, there will be substantial growth.
• Don't get overconfident, this fire could still make big runs with any wind
• WTIP is on the air until midnight and then back on air at 8:00
• only one meeting tomorrow at 10:00 AM.

Some context

I found this great webpage called that is a "wiki" or publicly editable database for just BWCA topics (vs Wikipedia that has everything) Anyway, they have a chronology of fires up there, and I found the ones that I was most familiar with. I think it provides a good perspective:

1995 sag fire = 20 sq miles

2003 South Seagull fire (prescribed) =6.25 miles

2005 Alpine fire = 2 sq miles

2006 Cavity Lake fire = 50 sq miles

2007 Ham Lake fire = 82 sq miles and growing

Thats a total of about 165 square miles, 140 of those in the past 5 years.

Great interactive map

The Duluth News Tribune has a great interactive map of the fire progression from its start last saturday until yesterday night. The jump from wednesday to thursday is truly spectacular and again shows how well that controlled burn did at keeping the fire at least on the north side of gunflint. It effectively closed the door to the south side of the lake that would have meant all the cabins as well as loon lake would have been hit.

Small update

From a report read on WTIP

• The "finger" is 12 miles long
• the head of fire is 2 miles wide, past rush lake nearing alpha lake
• No additional structures affected, however they are doing a survey now.
• 585 people on the fire
• Lots of trucks, planes, and helicopters
• Cost as of last night, $2 million

I have updated the Google Map to reflect the southern progression past rush lake (my best guess) and to bring it more in line with the official map.

Also a sort of fun link, check out the smoke plume being generated by this fire!

East Bearskin

Some news from East Bearskin via Jane, my Dad made it up there safe and is with Jim working on sprinklers and such. That is good to hear. She said the fire team knows of their location should anything flare up and force a mandatory evacuation. Things sound intense up there, but its good to know we have lots of professionals who have been preparing for this since July 5th 1999 working their hearts out. They will get some big applause for all of their work through this I am sure.

Wind is the big question now. WIth that several mile long finger sticking it self right down between Loon and Gunflint lakes and Poplar lake. Its a thin finger now, but if the wind moves to the East it could push this finger in a large front west towards Gunflint lodge. Or if the wind turns the other way, it heads towards trail center.

The forecast calls for winds to be easterly 5-15 today, and then turning Northerly later. Isolated shower possible late tonight Tomorrow will be cool with low winds that will trend south east. Then sunday to monday, there is a 40-20% chance for thunderstorms

Yesterday was the bad day it seems with dry, hot and very intense wind. Now we are getting back into normal cool spring weather and that is good news.

History of Fire

Not much news coming in, just a re-hash of this morning's 10:00 meeting. There will be another one at 7:00, so tune in for that.

The Duluth News Trubune wrote an article with two issues that I wanted to talk about. There was this,
It was unclear if it was fire from an intentional fire conducted Wednesday night, or elements of the original wildfire, that spread into Canada on Thursday pushed by 35 mph west winds that later shifted from the north.
They were the first to report this (I posted it a bit back) but from what I heard on WTIP this morning and on the star tribune last night, they were just wrong and it is clear back burn clearly saved much of the north end of the trail. Amazing work.

Second was this,
Already the most destructive fire in terms of lost buildings since 1918, it’s now probably Minnesota’s largest wildfire since then as well.
I went back to my now unpacked "The Boundry Waters Wilderness Ecosystem" by Miron Heinselman, a MUST have for anyone interested or living around the BWCA. Heinselman's made extensive maps of the fire history in the BWCA. Below here I have photographed a map of the fire activity during the modern "suppression period" where all and every forest fire was snuffed out as soon as it was found.

Now, look at his historical record of the amount of square miles burned in the BWCA over history:

As you can see, 1910 was the last year there were any significant fire events in the BWCA, with about 80 square miles burned. This nearly 100 year gap, combined with the blowdown of 1999, is what has caused such a explosive and unpredictable fire. There is a natural balance that fires help keep in the BWCA, and with constant suppression over the years potential energy for fire like this has reached extreme levels. The forest service knows better now, and they let more remote fires burn larger, but it all helps explain where this perfect storm has come from.

Noon update

BIG maps (3.5 megs) out now from MNICS that I showed a photograph of this morning. It was a huge file, and I have compressed it with photoshop. Here is a zoomed in portion showing this new blob of fire that has crossed down over the trail and currently is the greatest threat to the central trail. Click for a bigger view.

Here is the big picture, again click for a larger view.

New Map!

From WTIP here is an actual photograph of a fire map! I am glad to say that my drawing of it was too large. I will be updating the google map now.

Update: Google Map update. Now I see why they keep saying no new structures have been effected, as this fire has done this weird finger out of the north cutting off the Gunflint trail. Hopefully they can contain this bulge before it turns into its own fire.

Update 2: Also take a look at how well that controlled burn worked, the fire stopped right along that edge.

Live bloging the WTIP morning show

• 40% chance of rain on sunday
• The fire doubled in size yesterday to 85 square miles (55,000 acres)
• It has crossed back over the gunflint trail. I assume this means crossing over gunflint lake based on previous reports
• The "head" is 2 miles wide moving south east towards poplar lake

There will be a community meeting at 10:00 with some long awaited maps since the blow up yesterday, I will update when I hear that info.

Google map updated to reflect what I heard in in the news.
• Moved east into Canada then traveled south back over Gunflint, and across the Gunflint trail around HW 90 and Iron lake, and then further south.
• No new structures lost.
• "Tested yesterday, no one was hurt"
• Road block, no one goes past Poplar Lake firehall
• You can still get to E. Bearskin and such, but will be questioned.

UPDATE 10:10:
• No news structures lost (?) but things remain unclear
• Thank yous
• This is a unified type 1 command with Canada, county, state, and federal teams.
• Almost 500 people fighting the fire.
• All eastern BWCA access points are closed.
• Fire is unpredictable

UPDATE 10:15:
• 275 registered evacuees in Grand Marais
• This meeting will be re-broadcast at 2:00 on WTIP (web feed)
• New meeting around 7:00 tonight.

Morning info - Additional Cautionary Evacuation

From Boreal again, they have issued a "cautionary evacuation" of the Gunflint Trail down to swamper lake. This includes east bearskin. However. I believe that this is the same kind of evacuation order we received in 1995 during the Saganaga fire. Updated in the Google map

UPDATE: My dad will be there this morning unpacking our pump system along with our neighbors, making sure they are running, and then getting them cranking. I watched a piece from channel 11 news last night reporting from the line of the mandatory evacuation just before trail center, and it looked really spooky. The photo on the right is taken from that. All smoke and red sun, it looks as if the fire was right there. It's not of course, it is still miles away, but an eery sight none the less.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Star Trib article

Ok one more bit of info before bed and thankfully its good news. This article from the Star Tribune is stuffed with answers. In short:

• The expand evacuation was caused by the fire jumping from the north side of Gunflint lake to the South
• The prescribed burn "was a 100 percent success" in creating a buffer on the south flank of the fire. That's good to hear.
• The fire is now 47 square miles
• It has expanded significantly into Canada
• "Today we got our butt kicked"

I also want to say hello to all the friends and neighbors visiting here for the first time. I am happy I have this blog to keep every one updated, information is the best thing to have in this kind of situation! If you want to direct any one who wants info on the Ham Lake fire direct them to and they will get only fire related stories. Also, if you have information that I don't have please leave a comment below.

I hope to see all of you soon in places that are just as we left them!

Gunflint Trail closed to the public


"The Gunflint Trail is closed beyond the Greenwood Lake Road to all public traffic."

I assume this means non property owners. I have updated the Google map to reflect this.

Unofficial map

I have been looking all over for new maps and Megan came through with the goods - the raw satellite data based on heat. Here it is... Google map

UPDATE: Link to GEOMAC where I got my thermal info.

UPDATE 2: Here is a screen grab of what I am basing my map off of. As you can see its poor quality and I can't zoom in any more without the data disappearing for some reason, but its better than nothing.

Poplar Evacuation

Now the mandatory evacuation has expanded further to the Poplar lake ranger station, and I have updated the map accordingly. No news as to why this has happened or where the fire lines are now.

My mom spoke to my aunt who is up there, and she said that the back burn that jumped the lake went north with the winds and then the winds doubled back to come from the north, blowing flames across the lake. This is all third hand, but it fits into what I am hearing.

Scary stuff, the prime quote being "mother nature is in control"

UPDATE 9:20 Getting some good news from the central command, I found this published at 8:30 tonight on their web page:
In preparation of an expected wind shift, a burnout operation was conducted by firefighters late yesterday afternoon west of Gunflint Lake and north of Magnetic Road. This burnout was critical in fire suppression operations. Containment lines are holding. There remains a major concern for long-range spotting in and amongst structures on the south side of both Gunflint and Loon lakes. There has been some spotting, but no additional structures have been reported lost. An estimated 200 residences and over 20 commercial operations remain threatened.

Thats good news if its true. Who to believe?

Gunflint evacuation

The Gunflint trail after County Rd. 90 has been ordered to evacuate immediately. I have updated the Google map with this new information. No one is saying what this means, or what the fire has done, but needless to say it is not good. This evacuation covers Gunflint lake and Loon lake, two places we really care about and where we know people who live there.

UPDATE 6:35 PMAccording to the the Duluth News Trubune the reason for the sudden evacuation is the controlled burn that I was so positive before has now gotten out of control.
An intentional fire lit today near Magnetic Lake, which was supposed to head north, also headed east early today, into Canada and directly across Gunflint Lake from hundreds of people.
They are describing this as a "worst case" and I don't think they are too far off. I have also updated the map to show a better idea of the size of the controlled burn that is not so controlled.

Also, here is a photo my dad took of my friends Tom, John and my self heading right to where the fire is right now, in the summer of 2002. We are heading to a gap called the Gunflint narrows, and I bet that is where the fire jumped into Canada.

Quote of the day

From a second year on her way to a client simulation:

"I have to give fake bad news to a fake owner about his fake pet's fake disease."

Trip to to the Cabin, Fire at day 5

Today is going to be a bad day up north. There is a "red flag" warning from the national weather service warning of high winds, hot temperature, and low humidity on the gunflint. The wind is reported to be shifting towards being North Westerly this afternoon, with gusts around 30-40 mph. If this does happen, thats about as windy as it ever gets up there. A NW wind is the worst news for places like Gunflint Lodge that now lies directly in the fires path. I have added a blue wind arrow to my Google map of the fire, and that should also roughly show where the fire is moving. I have also added a orange and red patch to indicate where I think the controlled burn took place based on reports (see below).

There is good news to report today however. As I mentioned, yesterday they did a rather remarkable and spectacular prescribed burn just a mile ahead of the advancing fire in an attempt to stop it from reaching the populated area around Gunflint lake. They cut lines and laid sprinkler hose and then around 6:00 PM dropped fire bombs into the area just inside the two lines and then directed the fire towards the middle. It worked too, so hopefully when the fire does reach this area it will be starved for fuel.

Also today, my Dad has decided to drive up to the cabin to get our own sprinkler system up and running, as well as our neighbors. He was planning to go up on monday normally, but events up there are getting a little to unpredictable so this will at least make every one feel better. Like I keep saying, 100% survival rate so far for structures with sprinklers. The photo on the left is what I am talking about. We installed those sprinklers in 2000 after the big 99' blow-down (thanks FEMA of old) and it consists of a water pump by the lake that runs on gas and propane, that pumps water into a network of pipes that runs out to hoses that connect to dozens of those sprinkler heads that are attached to buildings and on stakes through out the woods. When we were installing it we made fun of them, 'going golfing in the woods!,' 'at least the lawn will look good' (what lawn) and so on. But what they do is create a "dome of humidity" around the area so that the fire literally passes around and over (think floating hot ash) the area protected. It also soaks deep into the fuel around the area if you have time to run it for a few days before hand, so the material wont get dried out by the intense heat of the fire. This is another reason its good my Dad is headed up now, so he can run the system now just incase either this fire jumps miles due to wind spotting ash, or a new fire starts for some unknown reason. Better safe than sorry!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Behavior Core

We finished our last big exam on Monday this week (Physiology is over!!), and started Behavior Core. Behavior is normally spread out over the semester, but because our professor was out on maternity leave, it got squished into a single week of five 8-to-4 days. It's a little hard paying attention to the same subject for that long, but at least behavior is really interesting. Today we talked about canine aggressive behavior towards humans and towards other animals, which was scary and sad. The saddest part was talking about kids who get bitten. After looking at gruesome pictures of dog bites and statistics of how often people get bitten by dogs, our professor thankfully offset it with this video:

Tomorrow we're talking about canine anxiety problems, which I'm definitely interested in (I think we could use Winnie as a case study...). I will post what I learn here!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fire update

Alright, as of 2:00 a new map of the fire was relesed and it is growing larger to the east, the worst direction it could go but also the most predictable. As of now it is getting within striking distance of Gunflint lodge and other iconic destinations. Word is that winds are steady at around 15mph, and there is no real rain in sight.

I have made a Google Map to give every one reference to where some things are relative to this fire. If you click on the link, you will see a large area in red, that is the location of the current Ham lake fire. The area in yellow is the fire that alarmed every one last year. If you click on the way points you will find Gunflint lodge to the west, trail center in the middle, and our cabin on the left. As you can see, the fire would have to consume a large amount of area to even start to become a real threat to our land. As always, the real threat lies for us in a fire not yet started, but thats a different story.

This fire, and the larger fires of 2005 and 2006, shows that there are only 2 ways to effectively stop a fire in an area like the BWCA - if the fire runs into an already burned area, or rain. The best we can do is burn little pachas (controlled burns for property sake) and put up sprinklers around our cabins and houses to let big fires like this skip over. I think people have to come to terms with a patchwork forest, where there are areas of recent fire, new growth, and more established areas where fire is most likely. Right now, vast swaths of the region have tree systems that are the same age, wind damaged, and spruce filled. This equals fire. No amount of rotting will ever catch up.

So for me, its a story of 'how I stopped worrying and learned to love the fire.' Burnt areas are described routinely as devastated, destroyed, and ruined. And I understand that feeling. We become so attached to a place as we experience and their unique beauty. However go look at a forest a year, two years, five years after fire. You have a beautiful forest that is exploding with growth. The energy that has been trapped in the standing trees is freed up and the speed at which new trees come back is several times their normal rate. Trees like jackpine need fire to reproduce, and birch trees actually encourage the fire with their paper bark so their offspring (well, clone) will grow up out of their root system with no competition for light. So don't think the end of the trail is "ruined" now that fire has passed over it. Think of it as part of the place, and an opportunity to see a way the forest up there is meant to be.

Oh, and to get a sprinkler system. As silly as it is to have lawn sprinklers perched around the woods they still have a 100% success rate in this fire. Amazing.

Fire on the Gunflint

This information is up to date as of about 12:30 am tuesday morning.

It looks like the north end of the gunflint trail (after round lake, about 10 min drive from Gunflint lodge) as we speak is all burt by this high speed fire. I grabbed the map to the left before the sever melted again this morning (they are having serious server issues). At least it went the unusual direction of north west that is less populated instead of north east where it would have hit Gunflint lodge and the much more populated areas surrounding it.

I did read this interesting bit at the star trib,
"While 40 buildings were lost, officials said more than 50 in the fire's path were spared, apparently because they were protected by outdoor sprinkler systems owners installed after by the 1999 "blow-down" killed millions of trees in the area and increased fire danger for years to come."
Good news for the cabin, where even in this apparently intense fire there was a 100% survival rate of buildings protected by sprinklers and a 100% burn rate for those without. That is very impressive.

I feel sorry for the people up a the end of the trail, they have had bad luck. First the blow down in 1999 then threaten by serious fire for the past 2-3 years then this out of season human made freak fire comes in an finishes the disaster the blow down started almost 8 years ago. But if you map the fire activity in that area where the blow down was worst, the coverage of what has been burnt by fire is nearing total. I remember my BWCA book (now in a box some place) that said it was not a question of if but when fire would come after a wind event. He said that normally, 10 years after a blowdown fire should have consumed most of it, allowing new growth to rise up. So far, his predictions are accurate.

That trip megan I took 2 years ago is cursed, I think by the time this is over the entire route will have burned!! Still no threat to our property, and I can't imagine that this fire would become one. I am going to post more about fire later, I have lots to write on the subject.

Lobster lobster

Today we got our first package! Our first piece of any mail really. It was a card from our friends Sara and Will out east whom we have gotten to know through their search for a Vet school for Sara to attend, and she chose the U of M! The also have a corgi named Maggie who they also got later on in her life named and she wanted Winnie to know what life was like out east so she sent a lobster! Here is a move I took of Winnie playing with it for the first time. She loves the squeaker.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

apartment fun

Moppy moppy....

Whatcha doin?

Ooo, outside!

Post-rearranging snuggles

One of us should blog

Ah yes, one of us should blog! We have been having so much fun moving in that I have hardly sat down at the computer in days. What a good change! Now my RSS blog feed (Really Simple Syndication, updates you on new stories) is in the 100s instead of in the 1's because I checked it so often.

This morning Megan and I had Dave and Zach over for brunch, Zach who is visiting from TX. It was great and I managed not to burn the frittata. Note to self, use blue cheese from now on yum! It was so civilized and normal, I loved it. Dave is cooking dinner tonight, that should be amazing too.

The apartment is coming together really well. Megan and I hit IKEA just to walk around and walked out with a huge load of stuff. Mostly small stuff, like a spatula and some hangers, but we started to buy chairs to replace the ugly ones I brought up from Northfield. The chair in question is to the left here, and it looks much better than its big bulky brethren next to it. Comfortable too.

Winnie is settling in better now, thats good to see. Some things can still set her off to a buffing nervous state, but the AC/vent fan coming on is not bothering her any more. And the general background noise of University is fading for both winnie and me too.

I am not sure how this blog will work now that Megan and I are living together. It was created in large part for us to keep in touch with each other while we spent our year apart. It did a great job at that and has grown far beyond what we originally intended. Its a place to share ideas and keep in touch, so that will all stay the same. But perhaps some of that will be able to be replaced with actual human communication, and I don't think that would be a bad thing!