BEMIDJI -- Area fire crews battled a structure fire on Wednesday, the same day the fire danger index for the Bemidji area was listed as “very high.”
The fire was located in the 1400 block of Roosevelt Road Southeast in Beltrami County, near Andrusia Lake.
Crews from the Cass Lake Fire Department, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Bemidji Fire Department, Red Lake Forestry and others helped battle the blaze, which was first reported just before 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“There was a couple of structures involved, lot of hazardous material and so all the responders, we kind of had to stand down until that was stable,” said Ernest Schmitt, a forestry technician with the Department of Natural Resources office in Cass Lake.
A helicopter from Red Lake Forestry was used to help extinguish the fire where it was closest to the lake.
“I’m thinking there were two or three outbuildings and then the fire progressed out onto the bog,” Schmitt said. “That’s inaccessible by foot at this point so the helicopter is helping to knock that down.”
Earlier Wednesday, for the first time this fire season, the Bemidji Fire Department listed the fire danger in the area as "Very High."
Wildfires can start very easily and spread at a very fast rate, the fire department wrote on Facebook. There is a "potential for critical fire weather conditions this afternoon and tomorrow," the post said.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced restricted open burning for 20 counties, all mainly in the central part of the state.
The DNR says warm temperatures and dry conditions have increased the wildfire risk. Therefore, Anoka, Benton, Chisago, Douglas, Grant, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Todd, Traverse, Washington and Wright counties are under an open burning ban.
The state will not issue burning permits for brush or yard waste in these counties until restrictions are lifted.
The DNR encourages residents to use alternatives to burning, such as composting, chipping, or taking brush to a collection site. For information on how to compost yard debris, visit the DNR’s guide to composting yard debris.
People who burn debris will be held financially responsible if their fire escapes and burns other property, the DNR says.
For information and daily updates on current fire risk and open burning restrictions, visit the Minnesota DNR website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/index.html. There is a fire danger index map on the site, as well as a burning restrictions map, but you should always check with your local jurisdiction on any burning information.