Forest fires have been raging through the forests along the Minnesota Ontario border for more than a week now, confirming our worst fears of what might one day happen in that area, where a massive blowdown in 1999 has been followed by years of drought. Firefighters from across the country have converged in the area, and they're doing what they can, though for the most part, their efforts merely confirm the old adage, "We fight the fire until Nature puts it out." And it's only mid-May!
The inevitability of the event does little to ease the pain of those who have lost their cabins, their property, and their businesses to the all-consuming blaze. On the other hand, the privilege of owning property on the edge of a wilderness area, many miles from the nearest fire station, does carry certain risks. It's not surprising that press reports focus on human interest stories and the loss of personal property. Perhaps a little space could also be devoted to the losses sustained by those adventurous souls that were planning to visit the area this summer. Though individual cases are less dramatic, the aggregate loss is immense. The BWCA is the most popular wilderness area in the United States, with upward of 200,000 visitors per year arriving from places like Atlanta, Pueblo, and Mamou. These folks may be camping out in farmer Jone's back forty this summer. Wherever they end up, it won't be much like that glittering jewel of lakes and forests on the Minnesota-Ontario border.