Burning bans lifted;
rainfall totals still short, burn with caution

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/08/00.

With the area receiving more than an inch of rain, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has removed many of the restrictions on issuing burning permits in the state.

Meeker County lifted their county-wide burn"ing ban on Oct. 27 while the Paynesville Fire Department lifted its ban on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Despite the recent rainfalls, Paynesville Fire Chief Jim Freilinger urged people to use caution when burning.

"While the burning restrictions were lowered, people's caution should remain high," said Paul Peterson, DNR Forestry fire supervisor. "Always make sure a fire is put out properly and to stop burning if winds reach speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour or higher."

In the last week, most of the area north of the Twin Cities has received sufficient rainfall to allow some burning permits to be issued. However, the agency cautions that although recent rain has lowered the current danger for wildfires, people still have to be careful about when and where they burn. One day of sunny, warm weather can dry dead grasses and leaves enough to burn again.

Sunny, windy days can still be dangerous for wildfires, and everyone will need to stay aware of the current situation, and be ready to stop burning when the wind gets stronger than 10 to 15 miles per hour, according to Peterson.

Burning precautions
People will also have to take some extra precautions:
1) Make sure the fire is out before it's left. That usually means using a combination of water and stirring up the ashes. Individuals are responsible for any wildfires caused by their fire, even if they have a legal burning permit.

2) Do not light a fire over lowland areas. Burning over peat or organic soils after a dry spell could light the peat on fire. Peat fires have been known to smolder for a year or more, even under rain and snow.

According to Marlin Hage, DNR forester, there are currently four peat fires burning in Stearns County. The largest of the four is on the west side of Belgrade. Roscoe, Elrosa, and Waite Park have smaller areas affected by peat fires. He feels the recent rains will help extinguish the fires. Some areas may further restrict permits because of local fire situations. As usual, the rain didn't fall equally all over the map. Therefore, some areas will be wetter than others.

Annual rainfall
According to Bob Weisman, St. Cloud State University meterologist, the St. Cloud area rainfall total was 8.5 inches below normal.

Weisman said the normal amount of rainfall for the growing season, April 1 to Oct. 31, is 22.54 inches. This year only 14.06 inches was recorded in the area, the fifth lowest on record in 108 years.

The average amount of rainfall for September is 3.7 inches. Some areas received only 1.2 inches.

Weisman said a narrow strip which includes Stearns County, southern Morrison County, and part of Anoka County recorded extreme drought conditions. He did not recommend anyone to try burning leaves or brush until the snow flies.

When the sun comes out and the wind starts blowing, the dry conditions will return, Weisman said.

The rains came at a good time of year to recharge the soil. The ground wasn't frozen and 50 percent of what falls on the ground will go into the ground water. "There isn't much standing water in the area following the rain," he said.

"We had some incredible highs and lows in October," Weisman said. He explained the differences in temperatures were the result of not much moisture in the air.

"Without moisture, we get extremes," he added.

The average high for this time of year is 60.5; average low, 35.8; and the norm is 57.4.

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