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Fewer fires, but fire danger remains high in lakes area

Brainerd firefighters grab their gear Wednesday, May 15, after they finished their work on extinguishing a grass fire off Two Mile Road in Oak Lawn Township. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Burning restrictions are in place for the entire state of Minnesota and fire prevention experts continue to encourage people to use caution as fires can quickly spread, especially on warm and windy days.

"It's been relatively a slower fire season this year," said Leanne Langeberg, public information officer with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. The state agency, based in Grand Rapids, serves as a hub for mobilization of wildfire and emergency resources. "Today (May 15) it is a little more primed up (for fire season), but as far as fires go we have seen less."

Langeberg said the state is experiencing more moisture in the air, cooler temperatures and everything is greening up faster—all of which may be reasons there have been fewer fires.

The largest fire so far this season in the Brainerd area was this past Sunday, May 12, when Mission Township firefighters responded to a 40-acre blaze that burned fields and woods. No structures were damaged and no injuries occurred.

This week, there have been a few small grass fires and local firefighters and Minnesota DNR foresters were able to contain the fires quickly, so none of the fires got out of hand.

The latest grass fire was reported at 12:42 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, on the 13000 block of Two Mile Road in Oak Lawn Township, just east of Brainerd. Firefighters with the Brainerd Fire Department and the DNR responded.

Craig Schultz, a fire program forester who works out of the Backus DNR office, said just over an acre burned, mainly grassland. The fire was contained quickly and there were no injuries.

Currently, burning is restricted in Crow Wing County and variances are required. A variance permit is for special circumstances, such as prescribed fire projects, approved agricultural practices and construction projects.

The DNR reports despite this spring's wet weather, much of Minnesota is still dry enough to fuel a dangerous wildfire.

"It's easy to think all of this rain has saturated the ground enough to prevent a wildfire," Casey McCoy, the DNR's fire prevention supervisor, stated in a news release. "But even though the ground may be wet, the reality is grass, leaves, and pine needles dry surprisingly fast and become ideal fuel for a fire."

Until foliage greens up, McCoy urges people to not burn debris piles. Escaped debris fires cause four of every 10 Minnesota wildfires each year.

If a debris fire, or any other fire, gets out of control, people should call 911 immediately. Grass fires can be deceptively fast, change direction suddenly, and be challenging to extinguish, the DNR reports. Trained firefighting professionals would rather be called in to put out a fire safely than have someone get hurt or lose their life trying to extinguish it themselves. In addition, for most Minnesotans it is illegal to burn garbage and has been since the 1980s.

In the end, prevention is key, the DNR reports. People planning to have a campfire this spring should follow Smokey Bear's safety rules:

• Keep flammable material 3 feet away from the fire.

• Attend to the campfire at all times.

• Have a handy source of water ready.

• Stir the ashes and make certain the campfire is completely out before leaving.

Other Brainerd fire call

Brainerd firefighters responded at 4:29 a.m. Wednesday to a carbon monoxide alarm on the 300 block of Southeast 16th Street in Brainerd. Upon investigation, it was determined to be caused from a heat source in the garage.

Jennifer Kraus

A big part of my day is chasing down tips on a variety of breaking news stories, relating to vehicle crashes, fires, police incidents and court cases. I’m always thankful when people call in tips to alert me on an incident so I can follow up and see if the tip is actually something that occurred or is a rumor. It’s a big scope to keep track of as we not only cover Brainerd and Crow Wing County incidents, but we also cover the surrounding counties and cities. I also gather information on the entertainment scene, so if you are hosting a band or choir concert, an art exhibit, a play or other theater production -- I want to hear about it. If you know of a story on any of these beats, give me a shout! To help support local journalism, click here to sign up to receive a Dispatch digital subscription to our e-edition or to receive the printed paper at your door, or to get both.

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