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DNR: Homeowners should burn vegetative debris early

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages homeowners to dispose of vegetative debris before the snow melts and fires spread more easily.

Vegetative debris includes downed trees and branches, grass clippings and leaves. Getting rid of this debris is especially important with large woody debris piles in areas that experienced storm damage over the last couple of years. Burning these piles when there is no snow cover can pose a serious threat for spring wildfires due to flying embers and smoldering coals these fires generate.

When there is less than three inches of snow, state law requires people to get a permit to burn and to activate the permit daily for open fires other than campfires. Permits are available online, from local fire wardens, community/city offices or from DNR area forestry offices.

Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur in April and May. “Because of the high fire danger between snow melt and spring green up, the DNR restricts burning activities during that time,” said DNR Fire Prevention Coordinator Larry Himanga.

Fire danger increases when the snow melts and winds dry the dead standing grass and brush. At that time, local DNR wildfire managers will restrict burning permits in their areas.

Spring fire restrictions cover large areas of the state; open burning will be drastically limited until summer green up occurs. Because more than 95 percent of Minnesota wildfires are caused by human error, the restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the numbers and sizes of accidental fires, Himanga said.

The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs. Although the DNR has not set the date for restrictions to begin, they are likely in the southern part of the state in a couple weeks.

Check the DNR website burning restrictions page for the latest information.

Although there may still be snow on the ground today, the DNR urges caution when burning debris piles. Attend fires at all times and make sure a fire it is out and cold to the touch before leaving. This will require stirring or spreading ember piles. Use water to put out the fire when possible.

Large piles can hold hot embers for days, weeks, or even months. Escaped fires from debris piles endanger homes and property every year. If an escaped fire requires the DNR or a fire department to put it out, the homeowner is responsible for the costs.

The safest way to dispose of yard waste is to recycle or compost it. Many communities have chipping or composting areas.