Fire danger high despite rain

Pine City firefighters and the DNR responded to a May 11 grass fire on the corner of County Road 61 and Cross Cut Road.

Despite this spring’s wet weather, much of Minnesota is still dry enough to fuel a dangerous wildfire, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s easy to think all of this rain has saturated the ground enough to prevent a wildfire,” said Casey McCoy, the DNR’s fire prevention supervisor. “But even though the ground may be wet, the reality is grass, leaves and pine needles dry surprisingly fast and become ideal fuel for a fire.”

Until foliage greens up, McCoy urges people not to burn debris piles. Escaped debris fires cause four of every 10 Minnesota wildfires each year. To prevent wildfires due to escaped debris burns, the DNR has issued burning restrictions in 44 counties, including Pine County. Always check the DNR’s statewide fire danger and current burning restrictions web page before burning.

If a debris fire, or any other fire, gets out of control, people should call 911 immediately. Grass fires can be deceptively fast, change direction suddenly, and be challenging to extinguish. Trained firefighting professionals would rather be called in to put out a fire safely than have someone get hurt or lose their life trying to extinguish it themselves.

In the end, prevention is key. People planning to have a campfire this spring should follow Smokey Bear’s safety rules:

• Keep flammable material 3 feet away from the fire.

• Attend to the campfire at all times.

• Have a handy source of water ready.

• Stir the ashes and make certain the campfire is completely out before leaving.

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