Fire danger mounts; Burn ban implemented as weather intensifies risk of fire
BEMIDJI – With temperatures in the high 80s and winds gusting at 12 mph Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shut down all burning permits in much of the Northwoods.
“Our burning indices are in the extreme or very high categories so the likelihood of an escaped fire is very high today,” said Greg Nelson, area forest supervisor for the DNR.
Burning permits were shut down in south Beltrami, north Cass, Hubbard, Clearwater, Mahnomen, Polk and Red Lake counties Wednesday and likely today, Nelson said.
According to the DNR website, the Northwest Region of the state has a “very high” fire rating description, which means fires can start very easily and can spread rapidly.
Nelson said the very high classification is given based on the wind, temperature, humidity and the current conditions of the vegetation.
He said that though the area was in the very high level on Wednesday, the weather forecast could potentially raise it to the extreme level.
The extreme level means that the fires can spread furiously and burn intensely.
If the forecast changes to be cooler and less windy, the DNR will lift the burning ban, but the current forecast makes lifting the ban unlikely, Nelson said.
“From here on out we need some moisture every few days,” he said. “We will be allowing burning permits again when the winds go down and the temperatures go down.”
Nelson said that even though the burning permit shutdown does not include campfires, those camping over Labor Day weekend should be cautious, staying close to their fires and making sure they are put out.
Because of the high fire danger, the DNR is expanding available support resources, including firefighting aircraft and heavy equipment.
According to a DNR press release, wildfire conditions are challenging in all of northwestern Minnesota because of 13 months of drought.
Fire managers have reported intense fire behavior including willow brush torching with 30-foot flames.
Failure to fully extinguish campfires is a common cause of wildfires and can result in the responsible individuals paying for thousands of dollars in suppression costs.