DULUTH (AP) -- Firefighters are gearing up for the third year of post-blowdown fire danger in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Millions of trees were toppled in the July 4, 1999, windstorm and they could still provide fuel for small wildfires to spread out of control.
So far, however, there have been no major wildfires in the blowdown area thanks in part to luck, planning and unprecedented firefighting resources.
Northeastern Minnesota has managed to go two springs, falls and summers without an extended dry period. Even when precipitation levels have been below normal for long periods such as last July, there have been enough intermittent showers to wet the forest and quash any big fires.
And, thanks to millions of dollars, hundreds of firefighters and, especially, ample firefighting aircraft, little fires haven't had a chance to grow. State and federal crews have been stationed close by and able to pounce on every fire that starts in and near the blowdown area.
Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service will again have extra ground crews on hand this spring, summer and fall in both Grand Marais and Ely. The Forest Service is expected to bring in both a giant helicopter and multi-engine water bomber on May 1.
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