Fire danger alleviated temporarily

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 5/10/00.

The rains Sunday night were a welcome site to fire fighters; however they only temporarily alleviated the dry conditions.

Grass fires burned across many parts of Minnesota last week, destroying four homes in the Princeton area, and 1,200 acres near Cook, Minn.

Many fire and sheriff departments in Stearns, Meeker, and Kandiyohi counties lifted burning bans last week, then reinstated them following the Princeton fires.

According to Jim Freilinger, Paynesville Fire Department Chief, the burning ban for the Paynesville area was lifted Saturday. Lake Henry lifted their burning ban on Monday. Freilinger said the ban will remain off unless the area becomes very dry again.

"Everything is starting to green up underneath the tall dry grass," Freilinger said, "that will make things slower to burn."

Freilinger has instructed people who write burning permits to use their best judgment when issuing permits. "They have the authority to refuse a permit if they feel the conditions are too dry," he said.

Freilinger said people need to ask themselves, if they really need to burn before lighting a match. Freilinger said. "Conditions were pretty dry before Sunday's rain. If you don't need to burn, don't," he added.

Fires can be started from a variety of sources. Man has no control over when a fire is started by lightning or from sparks off a passing train. But they can prevent fires by not tossing hot cigarette butts into ditches.

Every year, the DNR and fire departments respond to about 7,500 wildfires. Forty percent of those fires are caused by careless burning.

Freilinger said people need to think twice before driving vehicles through dry grass as sparks from the vehicle can ignite a fire. Sparks from four-wheeler engines or exhaust pipes can also start fires, he added. "On a windy day, sparks can fly across a field pretty fast."

Freilinger said ash from the control burn conducted in a wetland by the USDA near Eden Valley was found three to five miles away. "Upper air disturbances can carry the ash a long ways, starting another fire elsewhere," he added. "It doesn't take much."

Due to the lack of snow, the tall grasses found in wetlands were not knocked down and crushed like other years. "New grasses are greening up through the dry grass. We hope for the best that people use common sense when burning," Freilinger said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, fire conditions were very high last week before the rains Sunday. Twenty-three new fires were reported on Friday in northern Minnesota which destroyed 155 acres. To date, 1,300 fires have been reported since the first of the year, burning 33,859 acres in Minnesota.

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