International Falls Fire Department Quickly Extinguishes Wildfire on the Shore of Minnesota’s Rainy Lake

May 24, 2021

Firefighters wipe out blaze that jumped across open water to Voyageurs National Park.

SUPERIOR, Wis. (May 25, 2021) – Northern Minnesota’s International Falls Fire Department (IFFD), together with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, quickly extinguished a dangerous wildfire on the shore of Rainy Lake. On May 18th, amid elevated fire danger conditions and high winds, the fire jumped across open water from Frank Island to Voyageurs National Park on the U.S. mainland, but those responding swiftly extinguished it with help from a new Lake Assault Boats fireboat.

The fireboat, featuring a 375 gpm fire pump, was acquired by Koochiching County’s Rural Fire Protection Association through revenue derived from a recently expanded taxing district within its borders, and is operated under contracted services with the IFFD. A recent survey distributed to property owners showed that 72 percent of respondents favored the purchase of the fireboat.

“Fortunately, we keep the fireboat stationed on Rainy Lake about three and a half miles from Frank Island, and were able to arrive on scene within thirty minutes of receiving the emergency call,” recalled Fire Chief Adam Mannausau of the International Falls Fire Department, “Other agencies on hand included the Minnesota DNR and the Koochiching County Sheriff’s Department. Together, we were able to quickly knock down the blaze and prevent it from becoming much worse due to strong winds and large amounts of very dry fuel.”

The Lake Assault Boats fireboat is 22-feet long and features a modified V-hull design that is able to operate in very shallow waters. It is configured with twin 175-hp outboard motors that are seamlessly managed through a one-touch joystick system. “We were operating in very shallow water, and the joystick system allowed our craft to safely maneuver laterally along a rocky shoreline and maintain an optimal angle to the blaze,” explained Chief Mannausau.

The vessel is also equipped with a full-width T-top pilothouse (offering an interior clearance height of 76-inches), and its ergonomic helm station features a 12-inch Garmin touchscreen integrated with GPS, maps, chart plotter, sonar with structure and side scan, and forward looking infrared. “Rainy Lake is known for its rocky, granite terrain and the FLIR system has proven to be indispensible,” added Mannausau.

The fire was contained to a 3-4 acre footprint on Rainy Lake’s Frank Island, and just one-quarter acre in Voyageurs National Park. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Caption: Firefighters from the International Falls Fire Department, together with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, responding to a wildfire on Rainy Lake’s Frank Island. The fire, which jumped across open water to Voyageurs National Park on the mainland, was quickly extinguished despite high winds and elevated fire danger conditions. (Photo courtesy of the Koochiching County Sheriff’s Office.)