Wildfire threat remains high despite recent rain
Most of Minnesota continues to experience a prolonged drought that
began in mid-July. Although much needed, the rain that fell over much
of the state last week had minimal impact on the potential for
wildfires, according to Ron Stoffel, wildfire suppression supervisor
at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. Most areas need a half to
one inch of rain each week to curtail wildfire risk. If rains don't
continue, caution will still be needed in outdoor activities until
more significant moisture is received.
"The rain we got definitely helped, but we need more," Stoffel said.
"It is still really dry out there, which means the fire danger could
be back at very high to extreme in just a couple days."
The danger of wildfire has been steadily rising since early to
mid-August. While lack of rain is a contributing factor, a general
lack of snow cover across most of the state last winter didn't help
matters. That caused some areas to enter the growing season with
moisture deficits, thus creating a busier-than-normal spring wildfire
season. After promising amounts of rain in June, unseasonable fire
activity resumed during the late summer months.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges hunters and
other recreational users to use caution with any outdoor open flames
such as campfires and other heating sources. Stoffel said exhaust
systems from vehicles parked on dry grass, and equipment used to
harvest crops and trees, can also unintentionally spark a wildfire.
Wildfire fighting resources have been on heightened alert for the past
few weeks as conditions have worsened. Crews and equipment from the
Minnesota DNR, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National
Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been battling
blazes across the state. Local volunteer fire departments have also
been busy. Agencies fighting wildfires in Minnesota have been
reporting 20 to 30 fires per week.
"Although most of these wildfires were kept small with a combination
of aerial and ground forces, the dryness of the forest fuels has
required ground crews to spend a significant amount of time mopping
up," Stoffel said.
The DNR recommends some simple steps homeowners can take to help
protect their homes and property from wildfire. These include:
o mowing grass short, especially along roadsides and under evergreen
trees where branches reach near the ground
o removing dead dry leaves and grasses for at least three feet around
o cleaning leaves and needles from gutters, roof and decks, and also
clearing leaves and debris from under decks
o moving firewood piles to a distance of at least 30 feet away from
o ensuring prompt response time of firefighters and other emergency
responders by keeping house numbers and fire numbers visible from the
Homeowners can learn more about safeguarding their property against
wildfires by visiting the DNR's Firewise Web site at
www.dnr.state.mn.us/firewise. The latest information
regarding Minnesota fire danger levels can be found at