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Firefighters Brace for Busy Fall

Minnesota’s dry conditions in the past two months are putting wildland fire officials on alert. The extreme northern portions of the state have received some moisture over the past two weeks; however, south of a line from Duluth to Bemidji and west to the Dakota border conditions are becoming extremely dry.

During snow free months fire officials monitor moisture in various sizes of fuels from grass to large trees, they also monitor projected fire intensities and potential for fire spread. Most of the indices are now at or near conditions which existed during one of the most severe fall fire years, 1976. That year, several large fires were fought throughout MN and hunting seasons were altered due to the extreme wildfire danger. More recently, the Carlos Edge fire burned 9000 acres in mid-October of 2000.

Fall fire season normally occurs from the time of first frost until snowfall or persistent frost reduces fire danger. “This year we are already seeing fires that are difficult to suppress and burning in peat,” said Ron Stoffel, MN DNR Wildfire Suppression Supervisor. Long-term weather forecasts call for continued dry conditions.

A CL-215 water scooping aircraft normally based in North Carolina is now stationed in Brainerd and fire-fighting helicopters are stationed in Brainerd and Ely. Another larger helicopter will return to its base in Grand Marais today from an assignment in western Montana.

“Many Minnesotans enjoy the fall months and the hunting, camping, and other recreation this time of year brings. In cooler temperatures, when people like to sit around campfires, everyone needs to be mindful of the wildfire conditions,” said Stoffel. Fall weather is also often windy, making perfect conditions for fires to spread quickly. Fire danger will remain high in the southern two thirds of the state until we receive several days of soaking rain. Portions of the northern one third of MN will only need a few days of dry weather to increase wildfire danger there.





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