Owners of two 'mystery cars' in fire zone found safe in BWCAWShe kept calling. All week long, Jodi Rist worried about her father and brother, who entered on Sunday what would become a danger zone in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News Chronicle
She kept calling. All week long, Jodi Rist worried about her father and brother, who entered on Sunday what would become a danger zone in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Late in the afternoon Friday, her persistence paid off: The two men were found and flown out of the BWCAW.
Don and Nick Hohenstein paddled in on Kawishiwi Lake, soon to be the eastern front of the Pagami Creek fire that roared 24 hours later. They owned two of the three cars parked at the entry there that kept officials puzzled about where their owners could be.
Don Hohenstein, Rist’s father, lives in the family’s hometown of Mankato. Nick Hohenstein is from Milwaukee.
“Mandy, Nick’s wife, just got the news and is shaking with relief,” Rist said. Mandy Hohenstein, who is pregnant, also had called this week begging for information.
Rist had reason to be worried. She knows how dangerous wildfires can be, having dealt with them as a forester for the Colorado State Forest Service.
But she also knew her father and brother tend to push hard on the first day. “They planned a long trip,” she said. She assumed they had gone far enough Sunday to stay out of the front that rolled in Monday afternoon.
“They’re probably tooling around north of (the fire),” she said Friday before they were found. “They look forward to this trip every year and would stay out as long as they could.”
She was right. Nick Hohenstein said Friday night that he and his father camped on Lake Polly that first night, six miles north of the entry. He said the fire seemed far to the southwest at the time; they figured as long as they kept going north, things would be OK.
On Monday, the wind pushed ash onto them by the time they paddled to the first lake north. Eventually, the fire hit Polly, but got no farther north or east.
Nick said they felt sure they were out of any danger and pressed north, going to Adams Lake, about five miles north of Polly. After rain and snow came Wednesday, they reasoned that things would calm down.
Their original plan was to exit the BWCAW today. They began to head south early Friday. On Malberg Lake, four miles north of the fire line, they met a helicopter that buzzed them for about 10 minutes and left. Then came a float plane to take them out.
“They said south was not an option,” Nick said of the foresters who helped them pack up their gear.
Up in the air, the “holey moley” moment came as they saw the burned-out area, Nick said. He was astonished to hear the fire traveled 16 miles Monday and that the total burned area was about 100,000 acres.
They thought the vehicles they were being flown to would be “crispy metal,” but they were fine.
The rescue leaves one vehicle unclaimed at that entry and one to the west on Lake One. Officials are still working to match up names of campers who’ve been found with the names discovered by license plate information.
Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said he received word late Thursday that a solo canoeist was found. He was making efforts Friday to find out if he owns the car at Lake One.
For more information
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has personnel sitting alongside Pagami Creek fire incident command officials in Ely who are taking calls and writing down names of people who may still be in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. People are being asked to call the center at (218) 365-3177 with information or to seek word on people who have been rescued.