This is not the kind of blog I enjoy writing. As many of you know, the Gunflint Trail area has been hit by another fire. This one started Saturday on Ham Lake, which is just west of us. A strong east wind carried it past Tuscarora Lodge coming within feet of their buildings. They had to evacuate through a road with flames on both sides of them. Luckily they lost only one small building but it’s scary.
By Sunday the fire was moving up to Seagull and Saganaga Lakes. Both of these lakes have many homes and businesses located on their shores. At the moment over 40 buildings have been lost in that area. Homes with sprinkler systems seem to be surviving. But of course, it is still black around your perimeter.
Gunflint Lake has totally escaped so far due to being on the right side of the winds. As I write now, the winds have died down for the night. This did not happen the first two nights which is why the fire moved so fast. I believe about 16,000 plus acres have been lost. It is hard to tell. Right now Gunflint looks like nothing is going on. There is a little smoke in the air but it will clear up overnight. We hope the winds will stay down all night.
Don’t want you to think that we are just sitting on our hands. Lee and Eva have kept us all busy. We are doing all the meals for the fire fighters. What started Sunday as 100 people per meal has grown. Today we served 260 for breakfast, 395 pack lunches and expect 400 for dinner. Tomorrow and Thursday each meal will be 400 plus. They have even dragged Bruce and me out to help a bit.
One of the hard things about these meals is the timing. The firefighters spend all their daylight hours fighting fires. So breakfast starts at 5:30 a.m. and by 8:00 just about everyone has eaten. Pack lunches go out with each person after breakfast. We generally get requests for more lunches throughout the day. Dinner goes from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. So, days are long for everyone.
If there is any joy to be found in this mess, it is the way people have banded together to help. First of all the firefighters and their support staff have been wonderful. Some of these guys are so tired at night that they can’t even wash the soot of their faces. If they need to ask more of us, it is always with a smile.
Second of all, in cooperation that is not often found, the federal, state and local officials, volunteers fire departments, Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, and State Highway Patrol have truly worked with each other. There is no time for inter-agency bickering.
Thirdly, we are Gunflint have been particularly blessed with help from our neighbors. We can handle breakfasts and dinners. It’s those pack lunches that would have been the straw to break the camel’s back. Today we put up 500 pack lunches. Our tables were end to end in the dining room. All along them were neighbors making 1000 sandwiches and assembling all the assorted contents of the lunches. The way they are working, these firefighters need lots of calories. We could not have done it without the help of all these neighbors.
Finally, our staff has worked like dogs through this. In early May we just do not have that many people on the staff. They all have long lists of spring projects to get done. Every one of them has put in extra hours and done so with a smile on their face.
So Friday we fill up with fishermen for the opening of the walleye season. A national contractor takes over the meal service. The bistro and dining room go back to normal meals and numbers of people. Even though the fire is not out, we look forward to going back to what we do best – proving quality meals and recreation for our guests and neighbors.