Superior National Forest planning prescribed burns this fall after active fire season

Fire crews burn defensive lanes to stop Greenwood fire. (USDA Forest Service / Supplied)

Superior National Forest managers are planning to conduct some prescribed burns this fall after an active fire season resulted in numerous closures throughout the forest, including a full closure of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

The U.S. Forest Service said prescribed burns could start as early as Friday. 

The purpose of the prescribed fires is to "improve public safety by reducing fuel buildup on the forest and potential for high-intensity wildfires to spread from the forest onto areas of intermingled ownership," the Forest Service said. 

The Forest Service said COVID-19 restrictions last year and a dry spring and summer this year prevented the Superior National Forest from being able to complete its planned prescribed fire activity. The forest now has a backlog of piles accumulating in the area from fuels reductions and timber harvest. 

Prescribed burns are carefully planned by fire managers and specialists and fires are only ignited if weather conditions are favorable. Officials say recent rainfall coupled with shorter days, lower temperatures and higher humidity levels have decreased fire danger and created conditions that allow for prescribed burns. 

Several wildfires are still burning in the Superior National Forest, including the Greenwood Fire, which was 80% contained as of Thursday. The Greenwood Fire has burned over 26,700 acres and destroyed several dozen structures since it started around Aug. 15

The Greenwood Fire as well as numerous other wildfires burning in the BWCA prompted the Forest Service to close the wilderness area completely for the first time in over 40 years.