As precipitation over the last 30 days has been at 50 percent of normal over most of Minnesota, fire managers from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are seeing an increase in fire danger and are urging people to use caution when working and recreating in dry areas.
So far this summer, fire occurrence has been low, but a predicted dry spell could change that quickly. DNR forestry areas with the highest fire potential are Bemidji, Park Rapids, Backus, Little Falls, Sandstone, and lands north of Cambridge and south of Cloquet. Continuing warm dry weather could expand the area of concern to the Arrowhead region in northeastern Minnesota where lightning ignitions could become more likely if thunderstorms develop with light rain, fire managers said.
The National Weather Service predicts Minnesota is entering a warm and dry spell for the next week or so. This is the time of year the state sees scattered rainfall where the amounts can vary widely even a few miles apart. Most of the state is still green, but it can change with the hot weather, especially if it stays rain free.
Once the weather cools off, the possibility of a killing frost increases. A killing frost pulls moisture out of fine fuels such as grasses and brush. A combination of dry weather and dry, dead fuels could lead to another active fall fire season.
Fire starts are more probable in areas exposed to the sun and in areas of light, sandy soil. Open stands of jack pine, especially where there is a higher ratio of dead fuels to live vegetation will have the higher probability of ignition.
This week, the southern third of Minnesota is at low fire danger. The northern third of the state and the metro area at moderate fire danger, meaning fires start easily and spread at a moderate rate. The central part of the state from Pine County in the east to the North Dakota border and from Marshall County to Lac qui Parle County has a fire danger rating of “high,” increasing the probability that wildfires could occur and spread at a rapid rate.
Burning of vegetative debris is allowed with a burning permit available through local forestry offices, local fire wardens, and online. See www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire for the fire danger ratings and burning permit restrictions.
Small grain harvest and haying operations could be a source of ignition during the coming weeks, as well as recreational vehicles such as ATVs.
DNR fire mangers urge people to use caution with all fire – campfires and burning debris. Campfires are allowed if they are no more than 3 feet high by 3 feet across and in a cleared area.