Fire danger high
BATTLE TOWNSHIP — Forestry crews and Beltrami County emergency management continued to fight a wildfire Tuesday, which has burned roughly 300 acres so far.
The grass fire was reported early Monday afternoon in Battle Township, located 55 miles north of Bemidji.
“One of the issues (Monday) was the extreme drought situations making firefighting very difficult with the high winds,” said Ron Rabe from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Blackduck Forestry office.
An updated fire risk map posted Tuesday on the DNR website shows the Bemidji area and surrounding counties – primarily to the south, west and the northwest corner of Cass Lake – facing extreme fire risks.
The extreme rating means the “fire situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage. Fires under extreme conditions start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious.”
In addition, the DNR said “the only effective and safe control action is on the flanks until the weather changes or the fuel supply lessens.”
A fire on Miles Avenue on the south edge of Bemidji prompted immediate and swift reaction Tuesday from firefighters, who quickly had the fire under control.
Rabe said the cause of the Battle Township fire is unknown, but acknowledged the extreme drought level impacted the fire’s spread.
The fire spread into a peat bog, making it hard for firefighters to deal with.
“Peat is a very difficult issue to resolve,” Rabe said. “Essentially it’s up to two feet of stuff that is like sawdust. It is dry so it just smolders.”
Rabe said DNR forestry resources, which include contracted workers with local equipment, worked throughout the day Tuesday to contain the fire, but it continued to burn. He is confident the fire will not spread much further.
“At this time we feel it is pretty well contained but it is always a factor of the weather,” Rabe said.
No one has been injured in the fire and because it is in a remote area no structures are threatened.
Motorists are asked to use caution when driving in the area located at Pioneer Road Northeast, 10 miles north of Highway 1 because of heavy equipment.
Rabe said that with the dryness, people should be very careful with fires of any size and to report any suspicious smoke.
He could not make an educated guess as to when the fire would be extinguished but said rain would help.