Isle Royale wildfire started after lightning strike

The Detroit News

A wildfire that's burned about 200 acres on Michigan's remote Isle Royale and has prompted the National Park Service to close some trails and campground areas on the wilderness island was started by a strike of lightning. 

The Horne Fire can be seen from Tobin Harbor, near Rock Harbor at Isle Royale.

The park service said Sunday on the Isle Royale National Park's Facebook page that the closures were necessary “to maintain public health and safety" after the fire on the Lake Superior island's east end expanded over the weekend amid lingering drought conditions.

View from a fishing boat of a wildfire burning along a lake as smoke fills the sky.

“Closed areas will be signed where possible and monitored to ensure compliance,” park staff said in the post.

Staff said the fire was sparked by lightning near the shore of Duncan Bay by the Tobin-Duncan Portage Trail. The island encompasses 571,790 acres.

View from fixed wing "Air Attack" plane of Horne Fire.

The so-called Horne Fire was burning so intensely over the weekend on the island that it could be picked up by satellites, the National Weather Service in Marquette said.

The trails closed due to the fire include the Lane Cove Trail and portions of the Greenstone Ridge and Mount Franklin trails.

List of closed areas: 

  • Lane Cove Trail and Campground
  • Greenstone Ridge Trail East of Mount Franklin Junction
  • Mount Franklin Trail between the Greenstone Ridge Trail and the Tobin Harbor Trail (the 1/2 mile section of the Mount Franklin Trail between the Tobin Harbor Trail and Rock Harbor Trail will remain open as conditions allow)
  • Duncan Bay Campground and Dock
  • Duncan Bay/Tobin Harbor Portage Trail
  • Duncan Narrows Campground and Dock
  • Tobin Harbor Dock (with the exception of the seaplane dock for the concessions seaplane operation as conditions allow)
  • Hidden Lake Dock
  • Hidden Lake Trail and Lookout Louise
  • Merritt Lane Campground and Dock
  • Stoll Trial and Scoville Point
  • Cross-Country Camping Zones 8, 9, 10, 11, 34, 35, 36 are closed for camping as well as cross-country day use
  • Other areas if directed by fire personnel

The remote island is part of Michigan but is 15 miles from the Minnesota shore. Moose and wolves roam the forested island, which is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts for hiking and backpacking.

The Horne Fire began in a boreal forest on the northeast end of Isle Royale.

Isle Royale maintains a Fire Management Plan (FMP) that includes procedures for various types of fire including nature caused fires, prescribed fires, and human caused fires.

Nature caused fires, such as lightning ignited, that are within the Wildland Burn Area are permitted to burn with firefighter oversight. If a fire threatens to breech the boundary of the permitted burn area or may impact a structure, firefighters set up fire-breaks and attempt to make the structure defendable, according to the National Parks Service. 

A Single Engine Air Tanker takes off to monitor the Horne Fire.

Firefighting planes dipped into Lake Superior to bring water to the fires in an effort to keep them contained to permitted burn areas. 

Look back at major fires on Isle Royale.