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Unseasonable weather brings fire concerns

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Normally, the weather on Oct. 2 includes a high temperature of 62 degrees and about a tenth of an inch of rain. 

Sunday, however, was anything but normal, with a high temperature of 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. While nice for those enjoying an extended summer, it’s the type of weather that keeps area firefighters on edge because of the potential for wildfires. 

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The fire danger on Sunday in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing and Wadena counties was listed by the DNR as high. In Mille Lacs, Morrison and Todd counties, the fire danger was very high. 

“We’ve had very little rain basically in western Crow Wing, Cass, and Todd counties,” said Mark Mortensen, DNR program forester at the Brainerd field office. “The rain was heavier earlier in the week to the north and east but most of our area is pretty dry and it sounds like the forecast continues that trend.”

For the DNR’s Aitkin area, which includes Brainerd, there were reports of two active fires Saturday but no information on size or damage. 

For the year there have been 26 fires in the Aitkin area that have burned a total of 56 acres, destroyed five buildings and damaged one building.

On Sunday, the DNR assisted the Brainerd Fire Department with a report of a grass fire on Gull River Road. The fire burned about a half an acre and is believed to have started from ashes from a fire Saturday night, the Brainerd Fire Department reported. Mortensen said DNR crews also were called to Todd County to assisted with a fire and the Cass County Sheriff’s Department reported a small grass fire in Pillager. 

Burning permits are still being issued, Mortensen said, though fires are only allowed to be started after 6 p.m. That could change Monday, he added, because of stronger winds in the forecast. 

“It’s on a day-to-day basis. If we get wind we’ll shut it down,” Mortensen said. He also urged hunters using all-terrain vehicles to use caution because the machines can easily ignite dry vegetation.

The forecast is offering little relief, with above-average temperatures and no rain in the forecast through Thursday. Though rain is in the forecast Friday through Sunday, the National Weather Service in Duluth said no significant amount is expected in that system and no significant rain is expected over the next 10 days.

Brainerd’s forecast from the National Weather Service in Duluth:

• Monday — Mostly sunny, high temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees and south winds 10 to 15 mph.

• Monday night — mostly clear, low temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees and south winds 5 to 10 mph.

• Tuesday — Mostly sunny with high temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees and south winds 10 to 15 mph.

• Tuesday night — Mostly clear in the evening then becoming partly cloudy with low temperatures of 53 to 58 degrees and southeast winds 5 to 10 mph.

• Wednesday — Mostly clear with high temperatures of 78 to 83 degrees.

• Wednesday night — Mostly clear with low temperatures of 52 to 57 degrees.

• Thursday — Mostly sunny with high temperatures of 73 to 78 degrees.

• Thursday night — Partly cloudy with low temperatures of 53 to 58 degrees.

• Friday — Mostly clear with high temperatures of 78 to 83 degrees.

• Friday night — Partly cloudy with a 20-percent chance of rain showers and low temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees.

• Saturday — Partly sunny with a 30-percent chance of rain showers and high temperatures of 68 to 73 degrees.

• Saturday night — Mostly cloudy with a 30-percent chance of rain showers and low temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857.

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