Fire in the Boundary Wa­ters

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight -

Cary J. Grif­fith, Univer­sity of Min­nesota Press (MAY) Hard­cover $25.95 (304pp), 978-1-5179-0341-1

May 5, 2007, was a day like any other in Steve Pos­niak’s beloved Boundary Wa­ters, ex­cept for one thing: the weather.

Low hu­mid­ity, higher-than-nor­mal day­time tem­per­a­tures, and ro­bust winds made the area ripe for wild­fires. Not the most care­ful of campers, Pos­niak, whose cus­tom it was to burn all his pa­per trash be­fore leav­ing his camp­site, ig­nored the warn­ings he’d re­ceived, lit his fire, and went into his tent to pack up his things. By the time he came out, em­bers car­ried by the wind had spread the fire be­yond his abil­ity to con­tain it, and the Ham Lake Fire, one of the largest and most de­struc­tive fires in Min­nesota his­tory, be­gan its on­slaught. It was to burn an es­ti­mated 75,551 acres be­fore it was fi­nally sub­dued.

Cary J. Grif­fith has given a cinema-wor­thy blow-by-blow ac­count of the peo­ple, places, and events as­so­ci­ated with the mas­sive wild­fire as area res­i­dents, re­sort own­ers, and vol­un­teer and pro­fes­sional fire­fight­ers chore­ographed their ef­forts to fight the in­ferno.

De­spite evac­u­a­tion or­ders, not ev­ery­one was will­ing to leave their homes and busi­nesses, choos­ing in­stead to work to­gether with friends, neigh­bors, and fire­fight­ers to sal­vage what they could. Manning his hoses and sprin­klers, seventy-six-year-old Bob Mone­han re­ported that “the whole world was on fire, cov­ered in smoke and flame.” The roar of the in­ferno was so loud that it would have been im­pos­si­ble to hear a per­son stand­ing right next to him scream­ing. For­tu­nately, his home was spared.

A trib­ute to all those who work to pro­tect and pre­serve our forests, prop­erty, and lives by putting their own lives on the line, the book is also a stark re­minder that a mo­ment of care­less­ness can re­sult in epic dev­as­ta­tion.

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