Forest managers will strategically set fire to parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness starting as soon as Tuesday. The fires are part of a management plan to burn off dead trees that fell in the July 1999 blowdown that could still serve as fuel for quick-spreading wildfires.

The areas of the prescribed burns, expected to take place through October, will include Crab Lake and Basswood near Ely and Duncan Lake and Lux Lake off the Gunflint Trail.

Start dates will depend on the weather and conditions.

The controlled fires are designed to stop wildfires from spreading into homes and resorts outside the wilderness area in the U.S. and Canada.

The blowdown 20 years ago affected about 500,000 acres across the Superior National Forest. So far, about 49,000 acres have been treated with prescribed fire.

Pam Louwagie


Big crowd comes out for UFO anniversary

More than 300 people packed the Marshall County Historical Society museum last week for a program marking the 40th anniversary of a UFO encounter that's been called one of the Top 10 most significant ever recorded.

"We filled every chair we had and had standing room," said museum staffer Lori Benitt. "People were fascinated. The phone has been ringing off the hook since."

On Aug. 27, 1979, Marshall County sheriff's deputy Val Johnson reported an attack on his squad car by a strange, bright light.

Johnson had been on a routine night patrol when he saw the light and drove toward it to investigate. He was knocked unconscious and woke with burns on his eyes and face. His squad car was damaged, too, and his watch and the car's clock had stopped for 14 minutes.

The county called in a variety of experts to investigate, but ultimately reached no conclusion about what Johnson might have seen or encountered. The incident brought national attention to the town of 1,500 residents about 320 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.

Johnson's squad car, showing its original damage, sits today in the museum as the star attraction.

Benitt said the crowd last week included people from Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Manitoba, and even a woman from Germany.

Anyone who missed the program and is curious about the UFO likely will have to wait another year to learn more — the museum is closed from Labor Day through Memorial Day, although offseason tours can be arranged by calling 218-745-4803.