One thing we haven’t had to worry about in the West End this year, at least so far, is forest fires. The late spring and the wet summer have kept fire danger very low.
In spite of that, fire has played a large role in the news this summer. Early in the season, massive fires out in Colorado and California destroyed hundreds of homes. Then, Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte experienced their fire, which was destructive, but thankfully without human injury.
Most recently, Zion Lutheran Church in Finland was destroyed by fire after apparently being struck by lightning. Although it is tempting to laugh about a church being destroyed by an act of God, in reality it is a terribly wrenching experience for any community, but especially a community with only one church building. I’m sure I speak for the entire West End when I offer heartfelt condolences to the Zion congregation and the whole Finland community.
In many ways, the fire that hit home the hardest was the tragic fire in Arizona that killed 19 members of a hotshot crew. In a community like ours, where many people are wild land firefighters who travel around the country, a story like this one sends cold chills down the spine. And, after the big, dangerous fires we’ve had here in the last 10 years, the Arizona disaster leads one to think, “There but for the grace of God.”
It is now self-evident that larger and more dangerous fires are the result of climate change and long-term forest management policies. These are very complex and politically sensitive issues that will be debated for a long time.
In my opinion, one thing is abundantly clear: If you choose to live in a community that is located in a fire ecosystem, you have the responsibility to protect your property from wildfire. The FireWise system that combines choosing fire-resistant building materials, smart management of vegetation and sprinkler systems is now a well-proven way to prevent property loss from wildfires. If government and insurance companies required that home and business owners protect their own properties, we would not only save a lot of money, but we wouldn’t have to put our fire fighters in harm’s way to protect buildings.
Back in the ‘90s, two fires started here on the Superior National Forest on the same day. Both were lightning strikes and both were within the BWCA Wilderness. One was allowed to burn until a rainstorm put it out. The other, which was here in the West End, was fought in the usual manner. It eventually cost more than $5 million and was ultimately put out by the same rainstorm that stopped the fire that cost almost nothing.
I asked the fire boss at the time why one fire was aggressively fought while the other was not. Her answer was that the cabins at Gust Lake were threatened by the West End fire while no cabins were threatened by the sister fire. I asked her why they didn’t just defend the cabins rather than fight the fire in the traditional manner. She paused and then said, “We don’t do that.” It might be time to re-examine how we think about wild fires in forests that are fire-based ecosystems.
Meanwhile, back in Finland, the Finland Co-op just celebrated their 100th year. I heard once that the Finland Co-op is the oldest continuously running co-op in Minnesota. Whether that is true or not, 100 years is a huge milestone. Congratulations to the Finland community for supporting this fine local business for so long.
Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte is hosting a handmade card party on July 21 starting at 3 p.m. You can bring your own card making supplies, or buy supplies at the event for a reasonable cost. Instruction, ideas and inspiration will be freely shared. Just think, you can make all your wedding, anniversary and birthday cards for the next year at the same time. And, nothing says thoughtfulness like a handmade card. Contact the Birch Grove Foundation, Lavona Czaplicki, or WTIP for more details and contact information.
On the deck in front of our sauna, we have a small wrought iron tree that is covered with LED Christmas lights. We use it to give the deck a nice soft ambient light when a sauna is happening after dark. A few days ago, the crew accidently left the lights on overnight after a sauna. The next day I looked out at the deck from my house and realized that half a dozen beautiful green Luna moths were festooning the stark metal tree. Attracted by the lights overnight, they looked for all the world like large green leaves sprouting from the metal tree. Closer inspection revealed a dozen other moths that were a less conspicuous brown and orange color.
It was just another pleasant and beautiful surprise from the rich natural world here in the West End.