Minnesota fire authorities are preaching a message of fire prevention this spring after an abnormally dry winter.
As weather warms up, strong windy days are common. Exposed, dry, dead grasses from last year’s growth serve as quick fuel for potential wildfires.
Leanne Langeberg, Public Information Office with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, said fire prevention is critical, especially this time of year. According to the MIFC, 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by human activity.
“We have the capability to use fire prevention and be mindful during those dry conditions,” Langeberg said. “If it’s windy, dry, and breezy, it’s not a good day to burn.”
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A wildfire was reported last week near Mentor, Minn., about 25 miles outside of Crookston. An incident command team from local, state, and federal responders were dispatched to fight the wildfire.
The Oxcart Fire started on Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday afternoon. Due to strong winds and dry conditions, the fire spread quickly. Firefighters from 12 local fire departments responded. Multiple aircrafts were used to fight the wildfire and firefighters from the Minnesota DNR and US Fish and Wildlife also responded. The fire crossed US Highway 2 and crews worked through the night to contain it.
“That’s a good example of how quickly a fire can take off on a red flag day,” Langeberg said.
On Wednesday morning, the MNICS reported that the fire burned 12,907 acres. Cold temperatures and higher humidity helped slow the spread and no new growth was reported.
By Friday, the Oxcart fire was 90 percent contained and firefighters worked on mopping up smoldering hot spots, using helicopter bucket water drops as temperatures allowed.
Langeberg said it’s important to clean up debris burns and make sure fires are out cold before leaving them unattended. Smoldering burn piles can easily rekindle under conditions of strong winds and low humidity.
If you see signs of a wildfire, it is recommended to call 911 immediately.
Fire conditions can be found on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’s website on its statewide fire danger and current burning restrictions page. A color-coded map is provided to view fire danger and burning restrictions throughout the state. Burning permits may be obtained and activated online. Some township fire wardens may not be issuing burning permits at this time. If you would like to obtain a burning permit from your local township fire warden, please call your local DNR Forestry Office for information on active wardens in your area.
The Minnesota Incident Command System provides updates and information on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mnics.org.