Fire weather conditions expected to continue

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The Minnesota fire weather season is currently in full swing, with over four hundred fires so far this year. 

“We had so much snow over the winter, we had a pretty late start to our fire season. But then with a couple of really warm days, that snow disappeared in about a three day stretch. So it was a later start than usual, but it was fast and furious when it did start,” said Minnesota DNR Division of Forestry Fire Prevention Supervisor Allissa Reynolds. “We typically see anywhere from 1000 to 2000 fires in Minnesota each spring. It’s more than a lot of people recognize. It is kind of a busy season for us.”

Red flag warnings were issued this weekend as a dry weather pattern, warmer temperatures, and gusty winds increased risk.

Both the Minnesota DNR and the Wisconsin DNR websites update statewide fire danger daily, with ratings based on how easily a fire could start and how quickly it could spread. 

“It’s just an indication of the fire weather, which is a combination of relative humidity, temperature and wind speed typically are the three driving factors and then the condition of the fuels,” explained Reynolds. “So how green they are, if it’s fully progressed into the growing season or if it’s still earlier in the spring or even late in the fall, some of those drier fuels really come into play with those that fire danger rating that we’re seeing. And then the burning restrictions is kind of a translation to our burning permit system and whether or not we allow public folks to conduct burning on their property, whether that’s a pile of yard waste or farmers burning their field or even prescribed fire, contractors conducting burns in the grasslands or forest lands across the state.”

Although much of Minnesota has a restriction on open burning, campfires are still allowed. 

“Campfires should be small, less than three feet by three feet, and if you do have one of those, make sure it’s absolutely out cold,” said Reynolds. “A lot of times, those campfires or larger fires especially hold heat for a number of days. And so if you go to bed one night thinking it’s all out and then the winds pick up or it dries out the next day, that’s when that fire can kick back up and get out of control. That’s what we see year after year as the number one cause of wildfires.”

Although weather and soil conditions make fires start and spread more easily, most are preventable.

“Over 90% of fires in Minnesota are from humans. We have very few lightning starts. So of those 90, 90 plus percent, it’s campfires, what we call debris or yard waste fires, people burning logs, sticks, leaves, things like that. That’s what gets away and that’s what causes most of our wildfires,” said Reynolds. “The biggest thing is to be cautious around fire. If you have any kind of fire, absolutely. Make sure it’s out cold before you leave, and if you do see any kind of spread or wildfire occurring, make sure you call 911 right away. Get to a safe place. Don’t try and suppress it yourself. We have trained professionals with the right equipment.”