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DNR use air, ground resources to extinguish grass fire

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources firefighter Ron Sanow drives the J5 while firefighter Jessica Lusk uses an ax to put out the remnants of a grass fire Monday afternoon near County Highway 2 southeast of Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch /Steve Kohls

When Jody Hinrichs arrived home Monday after work, he walked in the door and heard an aircraft fly by.

He went outside on his deck off Crow Wing County Road 45, southeast of Brainerd, to see what was going on. He saw a helicopter carrying water, then an aircraft dropping red fire retardant and then saw the smoke past his outbuilding on his property.

"It was kind of scary," Hinrichs said. "I knew the fire had to be close so I grabbed some stuff out of the safe just in case.

"You never know how big these grass fires can get."

The DNR, with help from the Brainerd Fire Department, responded to a grass fire at 2:59 p.m. on the 10000 block of County Highway 2, just off of County Road 45. The fire, which threatened homes, burned about 2 acres, said DNR Forester Alex Brothen. Five DNR foresters and Brainerd firefighters contained the fire and the homes were not touched.

Brothen said at this time he does not know how the fire started. Brothen said there was a lot of "oak leaf litter," debris that includes oak leaves and pine needle clippings, on the wooded property that burned. Brothen said this type of fuel burns slower than other grassland materials that start grass fires.

"It's incredibly dry out right now," said Brothen. "The DNR's detector plane saw the smoke and called it in."

Other grass fires were reported Monday, including one in Barrows and another in Pine River.

Weather plays an important role in fire danger and the chance of a small fire spreading and doing damage is high. Minnesota's weather forecast for this week shows most of the state will experience high to very high fire danger. Burning restrictions are in place for most counties in central Minnesota.

People may have campfires, but the DNR said people should limit campfires so it's not larger than 3-feet high by 3-feet wide, have a water source available and be sure the campfire is out and cold to the touch before leaving it.

There is hope for the dry conditions for Brainerd. Residents will likely see rain this week. The National Weather Service in Duluth reports chance of precipitation is 60 percent starting Tuesday night through Wednesday night. Thursday there is a 60 percent chance of rain.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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