Ridge on fire:
A planned 26 acre controlled burn jumped a control line
Monday, burning an estimated additional 25 acres in the Indiana Dunes State
Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore before being brought under
control. Most of the horizon is in flames in this photo. A small boxed area
has had the contrast heightened to show two firefighters approaching the
Fighting fire: A Firefighter
bring a runaway wildfire under control along the border of Indiana Dunes State Park
and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore at Porter Beach Monday. Eight area fire
departments responded when a State Park water pump failed during a planned
Carrying water in:
One of the firefighting methods used
Monday to fight a wildfire in Indiana Dunes State Park was portable water
packs carried on firefighters’ backs. Here Porter firefighter Brian
Mulholland gets his water pack filled by Jason Bogue. Also pictured is
firefighter Jenny Kelly. A controlled burn jumped the barrier line and eight
fire departments responded to bring the blaze under control.
Wall of fire: A wall of fire threatens homes in Porter
Beach within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Monday. Firefighters from
eight different area departments responded to subdue the controlled burn
gone wild. Firefighters stopped the fire before it reached area homes. No
property damage was reported.
(Tribune photos by Margaret L. Willis)
By VICKI URBANIK
A controlled burn near the site of the proposed new inn at the Indiana Dunes
State Park on Monday got out of control, engulfing an estimated 25 acres not
originally planned to be burned.
Indiana Dunes State Park Property Manager Brandt Baughman said a wind shift
caused the fire to jump the control line, but then the fire spread after a
“Initially, we were on top of it,” he said, adding, though, that after the
pump temporarily malfunctioned, the fire got away from the state park fire
The fire crossed over the state park boundary and burned a narrow strip in
the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Baughman said. The fire approached
some leaseback homes within the National Lakeshore’s Porter Beach, but no
houses or other structures were damaged. No injuries occurred.
Baughman credited the help of firefighters from outside agencies for
preventing damage to the homes by placing wet lines, or wetting the areas in
front of the houses.
“Fortunately, we had excellent support,” he said of the firefighters called
Agencies that assisted included the fire departments from Chesterton,
Porter, Burns Harbor, Liberty Township, Pine Township, Ogden Dunes, Beverly
Shores, and the National Lakeshore.
The National Lakeshore had its own controlled burn scheduled for Monday and
closed the Dune Ridge Trail in preparation. National Lakeshore crews got as
far as conducting a test burn when they received word of the out-of-control
burn at the State Park and went to assist. The National Lakeshore’s burn had
been rescheduled for today, and the Dune Ridge Trail was once again closed.
The state park’s controlled burn was originally scheduled for 26 acres near
the site of the proposed new inn. Baughman said the fire was for resource
management purposes in order to rid the land of invasive species that aren’t
fire resistant. The burn plan has been in place for more than year and had
nothing to do with preparations for the inn or for the meeting that will be
held on Wednesday with potential inn developers, he said.
“One has nothing to do with the other,” he said.
Not all of the initial 26 acres planned to be burned were actually burned,
since the fire crews stopped the burning in the control area when the fire
spread, engulfing an estimated 25 additional acres to the west.
The burn on Monday was the first controlled burn of the year at the Dunes
State Park and won’t necessarily be the last, Baughman said.
But because controlled burns are so highly dependent on wind and
temperatures, he could not say when the next burn will take place. However,
he did say that all other burns are more within the interior of the state
park and are not near the park’s boundary.
The fire was brought under control in about one and a half hours, Baughman
said, though he and other state park officials stayed on the scene until
about 10:30 p.m. to ensure that nothing would re-ignite.
Baughman said that to the best of his knowledge, the acreage that burned
Monday had never been burned before and was actually badly in need of a
controlled fire. So even though the controlled burn went awry, he said the
land that was affected will end up benefiting.
Controlled burns, also called “prescribed burns,” remove accumulated dead
plant material, in turn reducing the threat of uncontrolled wild fires and
promoting the healthy growth of native plants.