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DNR urges checking winter's burn piles: Smoldering ash can reignite in spring winds

Burn a pile of tree debris since this past winter's first snowfall? Burning with winter snow cover provides a safe environment while the flames are leaping from the pile. But, did that pile burn out completely? Checked the progress of the pile si...

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry is encouraging anybody who burned piles of tree debris, especially the heavy green tree slashings that last summer's blowdown event created, to go to those piles and inspect them for remaining fire. Brainerddispatch.com Graphic

Burn a pile of tree debris since this past winter's first snowfall?

Burning with winter snow cover provides a safe environment while the flames are leaping from the pile. But, did that pile burn out completely? Checked the progress of the pile since the day of the burn? Is there still fire lingering? Is the pile the proverbial smoking gun?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry is encouraging anybody who burned piles of tree debris, especially the heavy green tree slashings that last summer's blowdown event created, to go to those piles and inspect them for remaining fire.

"In my 35-plus years as a wildland firefighter, I have fought and investigated many fires that were thought to be cold because they were burned several months earlier during the winter," stated Curt Cogan, Backus area forester, in a news release. "These fires always occur on the very worst spring days and are usually very damaging. Piles should not be considered out until they are cold to the touch."

Every year throughout Minnesota wildfires occur because debris piles that were thought to be "out" rekindle when spring's warm and windy days arrive. Smoldering piles can and do lie apparently lifeless for months. To become dangerous they need only the surrounding vegetation, often standing dead grass, to dry out. Once gusty spring winds are applied, a wildfire is fanned.

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The damage and devastation of last summer's wind event need not be added to by a wildfire that easily can be avoided, the release stated. Wildfires in the blowdown sites around the Brainerd lakes area and the expansive areas that have been logged recovering from the wind event will present firefighters with unique and difficult fire suppression challenges this spring.

Foresters advise all who burned piles of heavy tree debris-including stumps, the boles of trees and piles created by heavy equipment pushing and stacking-to return to the ash piles and check for lingering heat, especially around the edges and the middle of the piles.

If the ash is hot to the touch of a bare hand or the ash sizzles and bubbles when water is applied, there is ample heat to rekindle when fanned by spring winds. If the pile is still hot, now is the time to extinguish it thoroughly using water until all heat is gone.

 

For additional information or advice relative to smoldering piles or disposal of remaining blowdown debris, contact DNR foresters at Backus, 218-947-3232, or Brainerd, 218-203-4424.

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