Fire danger was high Saturday, May 1, in the Brainerd lakes area and much of Minnesota with high temperatures, gusty winds and low relative humidity — keeping firefighters busy.

The National Weather Service Saturday issued a red flag warning for a large portion of central, west-central and northwest Minnesota, which expired at 8 p.m. Saturday. A red flag warning means critical weather conditions are ideal for a wildfire to spread quickly.

According to the National Weather Service in Duluth, Brainerd broke its daily record high Saturday with 89 degrees — beating out 88 degrees set in 1913. The weather service reported the last time Brainerd saw spring temperatures in the 80s was April 5, 2011.

Holmes said the cause of the fire was due to materials from a grill getting under the deck and starting leaves and other dry material on fire. The fire quickly spread up the side of the house and into the interior. The house is likely going to be a total loss, Holmes reported.

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Fire damage is visible at a house Sunday, May 2, 2021, on Memorywood Drive in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Fire damage is visible at a house Sunday, May 2, 2021, on Memorywood Drive in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Kenny Misner, who rented the home, said Sunday he saw red hot acorns fall from the bottom of the grill as he placed some tenderloins on the grates. Those acorns ignited leaves and although he poured water on the area, he was unable to smother the flames before they got out of control. Wind coming off White Sand Lake fueled the blaze, he said.

Due to the high winds, low humidity and the unseasonably high temperatures, the fire moved quickly through the structure, Holmes reported. Because of the same conditions, Pillager firefighters assisted. This allowed for some crews to get out of their gear and cool off as other crews were working.

About 30 firefighters were on scene, along with Pillager Fire, Baxter Police Department and North Memorial Health Ambulance. The scene was cleared about 6:40 p.m.

Neighbors rallied around Misner Sunday, with some neighborhood children hosting a lemonade stand together to raise funds. Neighbor Kayla Pickle said she and her family were on vacation at the time of the fire but learned of the incident Saturday. Her 4-year-old son Camden Pickle was worried about Misner, she said.

Neighbor kids man a lemonade stand Sunday, May 2, 2021, to raise money for their neighbor whose house burned Saturday on Memorywood Drive in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Neighbor kids man a lemonade stand Sunday, May 2, 2021, to raise money for their neighbor whose house burned Saturday on Memorywood Drive in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Camden was very concerned about it. So we got home today and he decided he wanted to do something for the neighbors,” Kayla Pickle said.

Misner said he lost some family heirlooms in the fire, including furniture he inherited from his parents. He also suffered burns on his hands.

Grilling safety tips

With high fire danger conditions and summer coming, Holmes offered a few grilling safety tips:

  • When grilling, place the grill away from the home, deck railings and other materials that will easily burn and allow fire to spread.

  • Never use a grill indoors.

  • Don’t leave the grill unattended.

  • Check the grill’s tubing and hoses before using a grill that has not been used in a while.

  • Keep the grill clean.

Holmes stated most grill fires start because something that could burn was too close to the grill.

Fire danger

Pillager Fire and Rescue had a busy Saturday, according to its Facebook post. Firefighters responded to a smoke alarm at 5:09 p.m. Saturday in East Gull Lake, which turned out to be a false alarm. Pillager, along with Mission and Nisswa fire departments also were training Saturday at Hunts Point in Pequot Lakes as a cooperative effort with Central Lakes College Fire and EMS. They burned roughly 120 acres, according to the post.

A photo Pillager Fire and Rescue posted Saturday, May 1, on its Facebook page from fire training at Hunts Point in Pequot Lakes as a cooperative effort with Central Lakes College Fire and EMS.
A photo Pillager Fire and Rescue posted Saturday, May 1, on its Facebook page from fire training at Hunts Point in Pequot Lakes as a cooperative effort with Central Lakes College Fire and EMS.

The weather service issued the red flag warning for Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties in the lakes area along with several other Minnesota counties. The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center urges everyone to be careful with any potential heat sources that can cause a spark during a red flag warning. If a person does spot an escaped wildfire, call 911.

Check the statewide fire danger and burning restrictions at

https://bit.ly/3aUJ898. For information on wildfires in Minnesota, visit mnics.org.

By Sunday, there was no red flag warning, but Crow Wing and Cass counties along with counties in the northwest part of the state continued to be under a “very high” fire danger, according to the Minnesota DNR. “Very high” means fires start easily and spread at a very fast rate. Wadena County and counties to its west were in a high fire danger, where fires spread at a fast rate and areas to the south of the lakes area, such as St. Cloud and the Twin Cities metro area were in a moderate fire danger, which means fires easily spread at a moderate rate.

Fire dangers should improve this week as there is a chance of showers and temperatures are expected to go back down to the 50s.

Detailed forecast for Brainerd area

  • Sunday night, May 3: A chance of sprinkles after 5 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 44. East wind 5 to 10 mph.

  • Monday: A chance of showers before 1 p.m., then a chance of sprinkles between 1-4 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 54. Breezy, with a north wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37 at night. Breezy, with a north wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

  • Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 55. Breezy, with a north wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Mostly clear at night, with a low around 34. North wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

  • Wednesday: A chance of sprinkles after 1 p.m. Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. North wind around 5 mph. There is a slight chance of showers at night. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 36. North wind around 5 mph.

  • Thursday: A chance of sprinkles and flurries before 8 a.m., then a chance of sprinkles between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., then a slight chance of rain showers after 1 p.m. Mostly sunny, with a high near 56. Breezy, with a north wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. At night, mostly clear, with a low around 34. North wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

  • Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. North wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph. Partly cloudy, with a low around 35. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.