Minnesota Interagency Fire Center hosted a news teleconference in Week 15, as part of the ‘Wildfire Prevention Week’. Fire experts discussed fire suppression, aviation and prevention; emphasizing on residents to be alert and careful with activities involving fire.
Experts warned of high danger this year, because of below average precipitation. The dip in foliar moisture content (Spring Dip) in conifer needles makes them “very flammable,” and there are also brown grasses. Grassfires spread very quickly moving into the crowns (treetops) and the fires could become catastrophic. The number of wildfires increased by 46 % this year; there have already been over 400 fire incidents, an average of 14-25 a day across the state, fortunately most being small fires but a few affected 20-55 acre range.
Majority of the fires are caused by humans and occur around roads and residential homes. The no 1 cause is when residents dispose yard waste (dried grass, fallen leaves or logs etc) by burning it. Fires spread quickly especially on warm and windy days. Another fire was caused by a cigarette butt possibly tossed out of a car window. Fire authorities encourage caution near a wildfire, as fatalities and injuries may occur. Last year a woman was killed driving through a smoke-filled road. A recent episode went from routine yard work, to a lawn mower that caught fire, to severe burns for a well-meaning resident who attempted to put out the fire alone.
Residents are advised to be careful and call emergency no’s in case of an incident. And let the various trained experts put out the fires. They have aircraft and helicopters to help ground crews fight wildfires across the state.
With the warm temperatures and little to no snow and dry vegetation, burning restrictions are in effect. No permits are issued for burning brush or yard waste in this period. Residents are encouraged to use alternatives like composting or hauling brush to a collection site. Burning restrictions do not apply to campfires; people are advised to clear an area around the campfire, watch the dying fire continuously and make sure it is out cold to the touch before leaving.