Pioneer Editorial: Take steps to prevent wildfires
This time of year, with the ice barely off the ground and nothing yet green, common sense should dictate care in the outdoors with materials that may start a fire. As evidenced by dry conditions, the danger of wildfire in the Bemidji area and elsewhere remains high.
But to help us remember that wildfire danger is high this time of year is Wildfire Prevention Week, which is noted this week.
"In Minnesota, hundreds of fires are accidentally started by people every year," says the state Department of Natural Resources. "These fires threaten people's safety and homes and cost communities hundreds of thousands of dollars to suppress."
In the DNR's Bemidji area alone, the fire danger remained high Tuesday with 29 active fires, including seven new fires on Monday. To date, 85 fires had been reported which burned 849 acres and luckily destroying only one outbuilding and no homes.
Homeowners who live with forests around them, as they work in their yards this spring, can help lower potential damages from wildfire, the DNR says:
-- Create at least 30 feet of yard space around homes to serve as a buffer zone.
-- Thin trees and brush near homes, pruning branches of all conifers up to 8 feet above the ground.
-- Remove dead trees and slash piles which could act as fuel for wildfires.
-- Move all woodpiles and flammable materials at least 30 feet from the home and other outbuildings.
-- Keep lawns mowed to 3 inches or less and well watered.
-- Keep roof and rain gutters clean of needles and leaves, which could be ignited by fire brands that can land on and ignite the roof.
Still, the best defense is to make sure wildfires don't begin in the first place. It is illegal for homeowners to burn garbage, and permits must be secured for debris burning. The latter, because of dry conditions, is currently banned, homeowners should exercise extreme caution when debris burning is again permitted.
Notes the DNR: "As the number of people living in the wildland/urban interface continues to increase, it becomes ever more important for us to find ways to live safely with fire. As we approach the traditional spring fire season, take a moment to look at what you can do to live safely with fire in your environment."
Until the area receives a strong, soaking rain, we must enjoy the outdoors with care, remembering just how easy it is to grow a flame into a wildfire, especially in our area's most explosive fuel -- diseased jack pine.