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Drought impacts: high fire risks, concerned Duluth farmer

Brandon Weathers
Updated: June 26, 2020 10:18 PM

As of June 26th, abnormally dry conditions reach across Northeast Minnesota with much of St. Louis County experiencing a moderate drought.

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The USDA Forest Service warns that these conditions are similar to the high fire years of 2006 and 2011, which was the year of the Pagami Creek fire.

With the 4th of July on the horizon, the Forest Service is asking for extra vigilance around campfires.

MN DNR area forest supervisor Craig Ferguson said, "For how dry our fuels are, we can have a pretty significant wildfire that could cause extensive damage, so folks really need to take this serious and make sure they're careful with fire."

At Hoffbauer Tree Farm in Duluth, the lack of rain has them worried about their Christmas trees.

Owner Doug Hoffbauer, known as Farmer Doug, said, "I'm concerned that if we don't get rain soon, then we're gonna lose a lot of these trees. They're getting brown, they're getting dry, they're wilting."

The impact of the drought is reflected, not only in the trees, but in the water. Farmer Doug said a small pond on the property used as an emergency water source is about two feet lower than it typically is by late June.

"If we need to irrigate, we can pump out of here, but it's already gone," Farmer Doug said.

The longer the drought continues, the more rain the farm will need to recover. When asked what would be needed to save the trees, Farmer Doug said, ''A slow, two day rain that comes up to a couple of inches."

Ferguson said fire risks will also likely see a long road to recovery based on the current rainfall deficit. "We're going to need a couple of events to come through and have long, soaking rainfalls of probably 4-6 inches to get us more on track to a normal summer," Ferguson said.

Credits

Brandon Weathers

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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