The snow is nearly gone -- but we certainly won't yet write it off for the season -- and warmer temperatures signal the start of spring and the summer ahead. It also signals the start of the wildfire season and a time to be extremely cautious.
Just how quickly Minnesota can go from blizzard-generated snowfalls to tinder-dry brush can be just a matter of days. We know that the Twin Cities area is dry as evidenced by the wildfire earlier this week that burned more than 1,500 acres in Anoka County and the Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge north of the Twin Cities. The matter is being marked as an arson, with the unfortunate circumstance of an area firefighter being charged with purposely setting the fire by allegedly launching fireworks out his car window into a ditch, Nonetheless, the crime shows that winter is moving into a dry spring until the landscape greens up.
The aggressive fire has caused the state Department of Natural Resources to declare south central Minnesota a high fire danger level, and immediately restricted open burning permits in six counties surrounding the northern Twin Cities metro area. Normal spring burning restrictions go into effect next Thursday (April 16) for 11 central Minnesota counties as far north as Mille Lacs, Morrison and Pine counties. The restrictions are expected to move north later in April, but could be posted sooner if there is a hot, dry spring.
Burning restrictions are enforced to reduce personal property damage resulting from wildfires fueled by dry vegetation, says the DNR. As shown by the Carlos Avery fire, it doesn't take much to ignite the dry landscape and a good wind will carry blaze out of control in no time.
We "up north" may have yet a few weeks to burn debris, so the DNR recommends that be done now by landowners. But landowners should be aware of changing weather conditions that may affect their timetable. And the rest of us need to start thinking of taking care that our activities outside don't cause a wildfire, such as tossing a cigarette out a car window or leaving a campfire unattended.
The DNR is gearing up for the soon to arrive wildfire season.
While the fire danger is low in northern Minnesota, the DNR is beginning to marshal the resources it will need in a few weeks to tackle fires as they arise. A big problem in our areas are the homes nestled in the woods. They make for good views and privacy but are fire traps in the case of a wildfire. Landowners should clear a significant open area between their homes and the tree line, and make sure the canopy doesn't go over their house.
Let's also take care that any wildfire isn't because of human activity.