Fire History


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Wildland fire has affected Isle Royale’s landscape through time. Dense boreal forests are found on the northeast end of the island, and hardwoods dominate the southwest end. Fire promotes aspects of growth and health for each of these forest types, which in turn provides food and habitat for wildlife.

Isle Royale is 99% federally designated wilderness, where nature is the primary driver and humans merely visitors. No permanent structures or roads are permitted in wilderness areas, and this impacts how the park is managed across all divisions, including wildland fire.

Ninety-five percent of the park is in a Wildland Fire Use zone, which permits lightning caused fires in this area to burn, but all human-caused fires are suppressed. This policy allows fire to regain its stature as an ecological force on the island.


Fire at Isle Royale

  • CCC crew working the smoky frontline of 1936 fire

    History of Fire on Isle Royale

    Through events both recorded and unrecorded by history, fire has had a defining influence on the archipelago.

  • The Ojibway Tower rises above the Greenstone Ridge.

    Fire Towers

    Isle Royale had three vantage points at which to monitor and detect fire from, prior to the utilization of aerial and satellite monitoring.

  • trail crew cutting tree

    Benefits of Fire

    Natural and prescribed fire at Isle Royale enable some island ecotypes to flourish.

  • fire crew gathers for a briefing

    Managing Fire on Isle Royale

    A comprehensive fire management plan prescribes how to respond to nature caused fires.

  • rays of light through smoke

    Additional Fire Resources

    Learn about common fire-related terms and find out more about NPS fire management.


Last updated: March 15, 2021

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