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Ottertooth Forums * Temagami canoe routes & backcountry travel * Archive through May 20, 2015 * Anatomy of a fire caused by careless campers < Previous Next >

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jonebgood
Member

Post Number: 25
Registered: 06-2010


Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 2:10 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Camp date: July 23, 2014
Time: 12h30
Location: Campsite, Matagamasi Lake, North Arm, 2 km south of portage



Upon stopping at this campsite for lunch and a swim on our way back to Matagamasi Landing after a 7 day trip, we noticed wood smoke coming from the camping area. At first we thought it was from an unextinguished fire in the designated rock ringed fire pit, left behind by recent occupants. Upon closer inspection, much to our horror, there was an active ground fire underway back in the woods downwind of the fire pit. The forest undergrowth and mosses were smoldering and small orange flames were licking about the base trunks of several red pines. There was a very strong wind fanning the burn area.

Luckily we were quick to deploy 2 water pails and 1 wash basin and set up a bucket brigade to contain the burn. It was hard to determine what sections were still hot as the burn covered an area approx. 15 by 30 feet and there was a thick layer of peaty type moss in a rocky terrain. It could be smoldering deep below the surface. After a break and some lunch we inspected the burn area again and saw no signs of smoke but we were in no way confident that the fire was completely put out. We eventually got a message back to George at Sportsmanís Lodge who then contacted the MNR to investigate. Hopefully this fire is now DEAD.

Analysis:

This fire puzzled me.
There was no sign of active fire or coals in the fire pit.
The ground burn started 3 feet downwind of the fire pit.
The fire pit was well established on rock/sandy soil with an ample ring of rocks with no burn between the fire pit and the start of the burn. Did a spark fly 3+ feet from the fire pit to forest area and start the burn?

I then looked more closely at the log lying behind the fire pit. At first it looked like a typical sitting log near the fire pit, but there were signs of a ground burn a few inches upwind of this log. Upon flipping this log over, the cause of the ground fire became obvious.

The previous campers tried to burn this log by placing it across the fire ring. Before leaving the site, this log, which was partially burning or burnt on one side in the middle section, was flipped off the fire ring back into the woods behind the fire pit. The hot side of the log was face down on top of combustible material. The very strong wind that day fanned the coals on the log to start a potential devastating forest fire.

Innocent looking sitting log at back of fire ring


"Sitting" log flipped over - the source of ground fire


Burnt undergrowth and mosses


Base of pine trees had small yellow flames fanned by high winds
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curly
Member

Post Number: 479
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 10:04 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thanks for the good work!
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grncnu
Member

Post Number: 351
Registered: 08-2010
Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 2:43 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Wow, it really was good work, & very lucky you were passing by.
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brian
Moderator

Post Number: 1642
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 8:48 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thanks for making the effort.
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gudwulf
Member

Post Number: 62
Registered: 03-2004
Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 10:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Good save, jonebgood!!! Awesome work by your party. Thanx for helping keep the back country OUTSTANDING and safe. Again, good job!
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marty_s
Member

Post Number: 30
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 9:18 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Years ago I camped at the site on the north side of the Lady Evelyn Narrows. As usual, I did not make a fire. When I awoke in the morning, I smelled something burning. The fire ring on the bare rocks was obviously not the culprit. I discovered a ground fire back in the woods - my guess is that the rain several days before had caused the prior occupants to start a fire back under the trees.

As I only had a one liter pot and liter water bottle, I paddled over to the nearby Island 10 fishing camp. One of the workers got a power boat and ferried us both back with shovels and five gallon buckets. It took a full half hour of digging and dumping water on it to fully extinguish it.
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brian
Moderator

Post Number: 1647
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 7:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

It's that crucial time when a fire is small to stop it. Well done.
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cascade
Member

Post Number: 28
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thank you Jonebegood, my husband and i just spent 9 nights at that site. We could see where the fire had been, and the work it took to put it out. We appreciate the effort, we really like that site and are glad it will continue to exist (along with everything around it) for many many many years to come.

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