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Fire danger 'Extreme:' Fire agencies ask people not to burn

Fire danger was not just high Sunday in the Brainerd lakes area, it was extreme. The Minnesota DNR listed most of the eastern half of the state--including Crow Wing County--in an extreme fire danger warning Sunday--meaning the "fire situation is ...

The Minnesota DNR had most of eastern half of the state -- including Crow Wing County in an extreme fire danger warning Sunday -- meaning the “fire situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage,” the DNR stated.Google Screenshot
The Minnesota DNR had most of eastern half of the state -- including Crow Wing County in an extreme fire danger warning Sunday -- meaning the “fire situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage,” the DNR stated. Click on image to see entire graphic. Google Screenshot

Fire danger was not just high Sunday in the Brainerd lakes area, it was extreme.

The Minnesota DNR listed most of the eastern half of the state-including Crow Wing County-in an extreme fire danger warning Sunday-meaning the "fire situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage," the DNR stated.

"No burning please," was the message Sunday from the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. Christi Powers, public information officer with the fire center based in Grand Rapids, said weather conditions were perfect for a fire to start and if someone was manning a brush pile and it got away, it would spread quickly with the wind gusts and the low humidity.

As of Saturday there were 305 wildfires in the state and 3,994 acred burned so this year. Last year there was a total of 2,500 acres that burned, Powers said. Last year's number of acres burned is much lower than this year's and the fire danger season is not even over.

Powers said last year there were a lot of injuries from wildfires but this year there have not been as many. However, Powers said an Akeley man died last week in the Park Rapids DNR district after trying to stop a burning debris pile from getting away.

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"So many times people will try to grab a hose and put out the fire themselves, but we encourage people to call 911 right away and not try to put out the fire themselves," Powers said. "This is a huge safety concern. These fires spread so quickly and if people try to put it out themselves they are endangering their safety as well as others who have residences nearby, as the fire may spread. Call 911 and have the experts extinguish the fire."

Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires, the MNICS reported. Out of control debris fires cause 40 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota.

Powers said another message the fire center wants the public to know is regarding drones, also known as an unmanned aircraft system..

"If you fly, we can't," Powers said. "Drones should not be anywhere around a wildfire."

A drone became an issue when a prairie fire started at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, about four miles northeast of Little Falls.

"The incursion stopped aerial wildfire suppression forcing a helicopter to land and return to its nearby helibase," Powers said. "Lives are at risk if you fly a drone near wildfires, putting the pilot and crew at risk along with increasing the threat of wildfire spread that threatens life, property and resources.

"We know people are curious, but we want the public to know that drones are not allowed in a fire zone."

An air attack, two Fire Bosses and a helicopter were dispatched to that prairie fire which burned about 8 acres of grass and it had the potential for intermittent torching in nearby pine stands, the fire center reported.

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Other fires in the state Sunday included ones near Blackberry, Warroad and Barnum, the MNICS reported.

Powers said all staff was on standby Sunday as the fire danger was high. She said people can check its website at www.mnics.org for fire updates.

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported critical fire weather conditions over portions of northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. A red flag warning was issued for the counties of Crow Wing, Aitkin and Cass until 7 p.m. Sunday as wind gusts were expected up to 35 mph and the humidity was as low as 14 percent; with temperatures in the mid 60s.

There was a slight chance of showers during the overnight Sunday and a 20 percent chance of showers before 9 a.m. Monday, April 30. Monday's high is expected to be near 76 degrees, with a south wind of 5-10, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

Burning permits are currently required statewide, the DNR reported. Burning restrictions are in effect for the following areas: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chisago, Clay, Clearwater, Cook, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Kanabec, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Mahnomen, Marshall, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Norman, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Rice, Roseau, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, St. Louis South, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Wilkin, Winona and Wright.

DNR Wildfire Facts

• One in four wildfires is caused by yard debris fires burning out of control. Unattended debris often mistakenly believed to be extinguished, continues to be leading cause of wildfires.

• More than half of all acres burned in 2017 resulted from arson fires.

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• Since 2013, vehicles have caused almost half of all fires started by equipment. When parking off highway, avoid dry, fine vegetation, such as grass, as hot exhaust can readily ignite it.

• The DNR and rail operators have a long partnership of working together to reduce railroad caused wildfires. These fires often start in remote areas, which delays detection and response.

Goals of Minnesota DNR Forestry fire suppression

• Prevent wildfires whenever possible.

• Respond within 20 minutes.

• Keep fires at 10 acres or fewer.

• Aggressively protect structures when if can be safely accomplished.

• Support local fire department suppression with the use of fixed and rotor wing aviation, tracked vehicles and other specialized equipment.

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