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Spring burning restrictions in force

Graphic: MN DNR at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/questions.html

Despite a cool and wet week, much of the Department of Natural Resources' northwest Minnesota region is under burning restrictions, limiting burning to campfires and variance permits allowed only under strict circumstances, said Craig Schultz, DNR fire program forester for the Backus area.

"Last week, areas south of Crow Wing County had burning restrictions implemented and now, all of Crow Wing and southern Cass, along with a good majority of other counties in the DNR's northwest region have burning permits restricted," Schultz said.

Variance permits are allowed for agricultural and other purposes.

"Campfires are generally always allowed without a permit. It needs to be a legitimate campfire, not something where people are cleaning up yard debris by putting it into a campfire ring and calling it a campfire," Schultz said. "The other thing is basically restricting the yard clean-up burning in the evening. The other burnings, prescribed fires and things like that, are still permissible with a variance permit."

Schultz estimated that in the past, restrictions have generally lasted two to four weeks, though it is all dependent on current conditions.

"(Restrictions end) generally when we have sufficient amounts of green up and the grasses are more lush and green, and generally that is followed by leaf-on on deciduous trees and shrubs," Schultz said.

It is important that everyone be aware of the current regulations, which can be found at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

Other than small campfires, permits are always required. In addition, those who burned recently should revisit the site of old burn piles to check for long hidden embers that can cause trouble.

"Any time there aren't three inches of snow, you need a burning permit unless it is a legitimate campfire," Schultz said. "If you do have a fire, make sure you have water and stir the ashes. Make sure it is out cold even if you burned several months prior over the winter. We've had 'hold-over' fires where people burned during the snowy months and then don't go back and recheck their piles, which can oftentimes be hot yet."

Wildfire risks are greater in the spring when conditions are optimal for fires to grow and spread rapidly, so it is important to be careful this time of year.

"Without the nuances of today's weather and weather conditions for the next couple of days, we are in a time period for the year that generally we have warm, dry days with relative humidity fairly low mixed with winds and creating elevated fire danger," Schultz said.