Innovations in fuels management: demonstrating success in treating a serious threat of wildfire in northern Minnesota
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
Author(s): Dennis Neitzke
Editor(s): Bret W. Butler; Wayne A. Cook
Publication Year: 2007

Cataloging Information

  • BWCAW - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
  • Canada
  • fire management
  • fuels treatments
  • heavy fuels
  • Minnesota
  • Superior National Forest
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 9, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 7551


This case study illustrates the positive effects of strategic fuels treatments in continuous heavy fuels. In 1999, a severe windstorm blew down close to 1,000 square miles of forest land in northern Minnesota and Canada. As much as 400,000 acres of the blowdown occurred in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Fire experts were invited to assess the hazardous fuels problem and to design and implement a treatment strategy that would effectively slow the spread of wildland fires and reduce the threat of a wildfire moving out of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and into adjacent homes and businesses along a highly used area of the Superior National Forest. Treatment blocks were strategically placed in a brick/grid pattern across the blowdown landscape in order to slow a wildfire's progress while only treating 15 to 20 percent of the total area. Success of those treatments was demonstrated when a large fire threatened the area of businesses and homes along the Gunflint Trail in July 2006. While the brick/grid pattern treatments were not completely in place, the fuel treatments were effective in containing the 32,000 acre Cavity Lake Fire. The fire behavior dramatically dropped within the big treatment units, allowing firefighters to successfully implement control tactics and protect $31 million worth of structures in the direct path of the fire.

Online Link(s):
Neitzke, Dennis. 2007. Innovations in fuels management: demonstrating success in treating a serious threat of wildfire in northern Minnesota. Pages 525-534 In: Butler, Bret W.; Cook, Wayne (comps.). The fire environment-innovations, management, and policy; conference proceedings. 26-30 March 2007; Destin, FL. Proceedings RMRS-P-46CD. Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.