Use caution during critical fire weather

Minnesota DNR fire danger map

Minnesota fire danger map

Fire crews ask the public to be very vigilant during fire danger weather. When in doubt, don’t burn. Frequently check the Minnesota  burning restrictions map.

So far, statewide wildfire statistics show 448 fires with 4,666 acres burned. Yesterday, 17 fires were reported for 87 acres burned. Wildfire aircraft were called to five fires and one fire had multiple air tankers on the scene.

Posted in Burning permits and restrictions, Fire conditions | Tagged | Comments Off on Use caution during critical fire weather

High fire danger today

May 2 2016 fire near Detroit Lakes (photo credit: Darrin Franco, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

photo credit: Darrin Franco, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Since yesterday morning (May 2, 2016) Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) agencies reported nearly 100 fires for almost 420 acres burned. Today, the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for a sizeable portion of northern Minnesota including the Chippewa National Forest and Brainerd Lakes region.

As of this morning, MNICS agencies raised the statewide preparedness level to four with MNICS Team A on alert, air resources strategically positioned and fire crews on stand by. Check today’s Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) fire behavior forecast for details or read the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) news release about wildfire threats due to changing weather.

Posted in Fire conditions, News / Photos | Comments Off on High fire danger today

Forest Service continues prescribed burns into May

During late April into early May, the Chippewa and Superior National Forests are conducting a series of prescribed burns for approximately 600 acres in the northeastern part of Minnesota. Safely conducted by trained prescribed fire specialists, these burns will help to reduce fuel, increase forest health and restore habitat particularly in areas where hardwood and balsam trees encroach on food sources.

On the Superior National Forest La Croix Ranger district near Tower, a 200-plus acre burn made way for oak and blueberry habitat to benefit moose, whose populations have declined in Minnesota. The Chippewa Forest Lake 13 prescribed burn, located approximately six miles southeast of Cass Lake, helped clear dead fuels to spur the growth of native plants. More details in the May 1, 2016 Duluth Tribune article and you can check Inciweb for daily Minnesota fire information.

Burns encourage native plants at Chippewa NF

Posted in News / Photos, Prescribed Burning | Comments Off on Forest Service continues prescribed burns into May

More prescribed burns planned for Superior National Forest

usfsWarm and dry spring weather conditions are allowing the Superior National Forest to continue prescribed fire activities today (April 29) that will improve wildlife habitat, reduce hazardous fuels and restore forest health. Fire crews are prepared to respond to wildfires as conditions dry.

Fire crews focused efforts yesterday and will continue today on burning near Echo Lake and Lake Jeanette along the Echo Trail within the LaCroix Ranger District. The purpose  is to improve oak and blueberry habitat to benefit moose, whose numbers have declined across northern Minnesota in recent years. Oak and blueberry habitat is located on rock knobs and outcroppings where fuels are sparse and dry quickly after the snow melts or after rains.

A total of 34 acres were successfully burned in mid-April and three separate units totaling nearly 200 acres are planned. If favorable conditions continue, more prescribed burns will be completed in the Kawishiwi Ranger District near Ely, Minnesota.  Please call 218/208-4544 or check the Superior National website for more information. For ongoing national fire updates check Inciweb.

Photo by Elizabeth Schmidt

Photo by Elizabeth Schmidt

Prescription for a healthy forest

Conditions that nurture wildfires also can nurture prescribed fires. Prescribed fires are carefully planned, far in advance, with involvement from specialists in all of the resource programs on the Forest and designed to be implemented under specific conditions (prescription) to meet management objectives. Reducing dangerous fuel loads to reduce the risk of a quick-spreading large wildfire is often an objective for a prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is also a useful tool for preparing a site for regeneration of native vegetation, restoring certain forest types, and maintaining wildlife openings or other habitat enhancements. Several considerations go into planning a prescribed fire including fuel types, presence of sensitive plants or animals, proximity to homes and private lands, visitor use, fuel moisture, winds, relative humidity, and projected weather. The prescribed season for implementing may be based on controlling certain invasive plants when their life history makes them vulnerable or avoiding the nesting period of a sensitive bird species.   In our region, spring and fall are usually the seasons when conditions match the prescription for a particular prescribed fire unit but sometimes management objectives indicate summer is the best timing for a prescribed fire. Prescribed burns are conducted by trained, certified Forest Service personnel and take into consideration temperature, relative humidity, wind and other conditions. Burns are rescheduled if weather conditions are unfavorable.
Posted in News, News Releases, Prescribed Burning | Comments Off on More prescribed burns planned for Superior National Forest

Teaming up to train at home

Fire crews conduct prescribed burn at Camp Ripley on April 23, 2016

Camp Ripley prescribed burn

On Saturday April 23, 2016 nearly 65 Minnesota DNR and National Guard personnel teamed up for a prescribed burn training event at Camp Ripley. Minnesota DNR National Guard Liaison Shawn Olsen said the exercise has been held annually for over a decade to prepare for wildfire suppression assignments. It gives military and state personnel a chance to team up and synchronize with an air attack platform.

“We have great cooperation with the National Guard. The training helps the DNR and National Guard staff prepare for wildfire incidents in state or out west” Olsen said.

One of four UH-60 National Guard Blackhawk helicopters that participated in the joint exercise

One of four UH-60 National Guard Blackhawk helicopters that participated in the joint exercise

During the drill, a DNR air attack platform circles the 160 acre prescribed grass fire located on the 53,000 acre military base near Little Falls, Minnesota. Below the air attack, four UH-60 National Guard Blackhawk helicopters coordinate water drops and flight routes with the air attack platform and helicopter managers on the ground. The drill involved multiple synchronized helicopters scooping water from nearby Tamarack and Fosdick Lakes. The Blackhawk’s 660-gallon buckets douses the fire and circles back for another water scoop. The prescribed burn reduces the possibility of an actual wildfire during National Guard troop artillery training that could ignite tall grasses or vegetative debris.

 

Posted in Events, News, training, training, wildfire aviation | Comments Off on Teaming up to train at home

MIFC announces staff changes

A new team is coming together at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Dispatch

Bekah Luedtke

Bekah Luedtke

On April 4, 2016 Rebekah (Bekah) Luedtke assumed the MIFC dispatch coordinator position, replacing Tom Fasteland who retired earlier this year. After earning an undergraduate forestry degree in 2001 at Iowa State University, Bekah worked as a field forester in Orr and Hill City, Minnesota. In February 2010 she was promoted to northeast regional DNR timber program coordinator.

In her 11th fire season Bekah brings considerable initial attack experience. More recently, she has been a single resource Logistics team member at incident command posts in Minnesota and throughout the U.S.

“I am excited to lead this team and look forward to contributing to the good work that has been done at MIFC,” Luedtke said. “Advancing interagency partnerships will be a focus moving forward,” she said.

Tasha Woodwick

Tasha Woodwick

On January 20, 2016 Natasha (Tasha) Woodwick assumed the position of MIFC assistant dispatch coordinator. She ‘hit the floor running’ and until recently balanced the duties of two positions. Tasha brings a wealth of fire and incident command experience that includes planning, support dispatch, initial attack dispatch and training specialist expertise.

Her fire career began 15 years ago as a seasonal firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service-Chippewa National Forest. In four years she was offered a permanent job there and worked her way to Engine Boss at the Walker Ranger District. In her new supervisory role, Tasha navigated some personnel changes and reconfigured the physical MIFC dispatch area. The space is streamlined and allows for more fluidity so that dispatchers and trainees can work together or independently.

“I look forward to fostering interagency relationships and looking for cross-training opportunities,” Woodwick said. “I would like to advance our use of technology to improve the way we do business.”

MNICS Task Force chair, Greg Peterson, agrees.

“The new MIFC dispatch leadership will augment the services we have provided for years,” said Peterson, who is a fire management officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “The Task Force supports the new dispatch team and we look forward to their innovative approach to another fire season,” he said.

Public Information

IMG_0017

Christi Powers

Last October, Christi Powers became the MIFC public information officer. She has 18 years of public sector communications experience at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Christi has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. in organizational communication from University of Dubuque. She has completed nine ICS/FEMA courses in six months and is a PIO-2 trainee for MNICS Team B.

“This has been an exciting transition and I am learning a lot” Powers said.

Aviation

Matt Woodwick

Matt Woodwick

On Friday April 1 2016, Matt Woodwick accepted the assistant supervisory position for the Minnesota DNR wildfire aviation program. His fire career began as a smokechaser for the DNR Backus area in 1996. Within a few weeks, Matt became part of a helicopter crew that mobilized for 21-days to Montana. It began his avid interest in helicopters.

For the next 15 years, Matt had a series of progressively responsible DNR positions as a fire technician, crew leader and equipment operator at Badoura Nursery. When he came to the DNR wildfire aviation program in 2008, Matt filled in where he was needed: fixed wing operations specialist, lead aircraft dispatcher and helicopter operations specialist. He gained valuable experience and demonstrated flexibility and a capacity to learn.

“Along with other changes and improvements at our aviation desk, we look forward to having Matt bring his experience, enthusiasm and expertise to our air operations,” Bill Schuster, wildfire aviation supervisor said.

Posted in Administrative, News, News / Photos, Photos | Comments Off on MIFC announces staff changes

Important reminder about drones

If you fly we can't

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildfire Aviation program, and the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) have issued a reminder about the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The situation

Unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise known as drones, have increased in commercial popularity and recreational use. Conflicts and hazards can occur if UAS are operating in the vicinity of a wildfire.

The problem

With increased wildfire activity, the need for fire suppression aircraft also increases. Minnesota DNR wildfire aviation use helicopters and air tankers to suppress these fires. During these periods, up to 40 aircraft may be on stand-by or working to extinguish wildfires. If drones are spotted over fires, aerial firefighting operations will immediately cease until the airspace is cleared and safe.

The solution

Wildland fire agencies are working with organizations, such as the “Know Before You Fly” program, to provide UAS users with safe and responsible flight information. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is executing a plan for safe and staged integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

Best practice

Wildland fire agencies are working to create a culture of awareness of FAA rules and regulations on drone usage. We also ask operators not to operate drones within five (5) miles of wildfires or Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR). Questions? Contact Matthew.Woodwick@state.mn.us.

Posted in Practice, wildfire aviation | Tagged , | Comments Off on Important reminder about drones

State burning restrictions increase

Additional burn restrictions to take effect April 18

Chance of wildfires sharply increased this week. More Minnesota counties will be under burning restrictions on April 18 that include: Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, and southern St. Louis (south of a line running from Silica on the west to Central Lakes and Brimson on the east). Currently, there are now 40 counties under spring burning restrictions.

Posted in Burning permits and restrictions, Fire conditions | Tagged | Comments Off on State burning restrictions increase

Near critical fire weather today in Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Itasca counties

pril 14 2016 Red Flag Warning

April 14 2016 Red Flag Warning

This morning the National Weather Service  issued a critical alert for Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca and Aitkin counties to include the northern Minnesota cities of Big Fork, Walker, Grand Rapids, Pine River, Hill City and Aitkin. Red Flag Warnings and critical alerts are issued when low humidity, warm temperatures and breezy conditions prevails. A warm front is rapidly lifting northward across central Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin this morning. Temperatures are now expected to reach the lower 80s across portions of Cass and Crow Wing counties. Predictions show that it will be warm and breezy in most other areas across the state. Please use caution today.

Posted in Fire conditions, News | Comments Off on Near critical fire weather today in Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Itasca counties

Sharpen your dispatch skills

Dispatchers answer calls at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC)Here is your chance to increase your dispatcher capability in a blended learning environment. Offered only every few years in Minnesota, the D-310 Support Dispatcher class prepares students for expanded dispatcher support roles (EDSD). Offered June 6 -10, 2016 at the Wildfire Academy, Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, students will develop advanced skills to work in higher-level dispatch centers. Learn how to shift changing priorities in functional areas when prioritization is needed. This course requires some pre-work but you will like its blended learning component. Register by April 24, 2016 at Advanced Minnesota and contact Natasha.woodwick@bia.gov if you have questions.

 

Posted in Incidents | Comments Off on Sharpen your dispatch skills

Apply by April 22 for crew positions

Clavin Squad in Manitoba in 2015Apply now!

Here is your chance to become part of a Type 2 Initial Attack crew. Last year Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) crews were dispatched nine times to Minnesota, U.S. and Canadian incidents.

MNICS has openings for crew bosses, assistant crew bosses (trainees), squad bosses and fallers (sawyers). Selected applicants are assigned to a Type 2 initial attack (IA) crew.  This is an excellent chance for personnel to get valuable leadership experience, provided they have agency and supervisory support. Talk to your supervisor, complete the form, and submit to mifcdispatch.dnr@state.mn.us by April 22. Email Bekah Luedtke, Mike Mackey,  Patrick Wherley, Jason Westholter, Aaron Mielke to learn more about this opportunity.

Posted in Incidents | Comments Off on Apply by April 22 for crew positions

NPS soon to conduct prescribed burns in Wisconsin

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway News Release     Contact: Scott Weyenberg, 715/483-2285 National Park Service logo

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway plans to conduct four prescribed burns in the Riverway corridor in the spring of 2016. Depending on weather conditions, burns will take place between April 18 – May 20, 2016. The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting these prescribed fires to improve prairie and savanna habitat along the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers. Areas include:

Barkers Farm Wisconsin prescribed burn

Barkers Farm prescribed burn

  • Peaslee Island, 140 acres in Polk County, three miles west of Dresser, Wisconsin. The site is being restored to native prairie and oak savanna.
  • Springbrook Savanna, 91 acres along the Namekagon River, one quarter mile northeast of Springbrook in Washburn County. A savanna restoration and adjacent prairie will be burned at the same time.
  • Olson Prairie: 17 acres on the Namekagon River, north of Highway 77 between Danbury and Minong in northeast Burnett County.
  • Barker’s Farm, 96 acres on the Namekagon River, northwest of the Olson Prairie burn site, Burnett County.Native prairie plants have returned to a former homestead.

Prescribed burns are conducted by trained, certified NPS personnel and take into consideration temperature, relative humidity, wind and other conditions. Burns are rescheduled if weather conditions are unfavorable. Learn more about the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Fire Management Plan or contact the Visitor Center at 715/483-2274.

 

Posted in GLFFC partner, News / Photos, Prescribed Burning | Comments Off on NPS soon to conduct prescribed burns in Wisconsin

Upgrades and awards for wildfire aviation program

Partners

Last month the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (GLFFC) and Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) partners met in Duluth for an annual aviation summit.

Great Lakes Forest Fire Com (GLFFC) aviation partners

Great Lakes Forest Fire (GLFFC) partners

Pilots, dispatchers and aviation professionals from multiple agencies, to include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Divisions of Forestry and Enforcement, United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Minnesota State Patrol/Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Army National Guard, Wisconsin DNR, Michigan DNR – along with partners from Manitoba and Ontario – compared notes before the upcoming wildfire season. The Minnesota DNR Forestry aviation program hosts the annual event. At the 2016 meeting, both the BIA and Minnesota DNR were recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for assistance last year when air tankers from Ontario were mobilized to fight wildfires in Idaho and Montana.

Afterward, GLFFC partners from Manitoba and Ontario toured the new aviation desk at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) in Grand Rapids. Tactical firefighting aircraft are dispatched and prioritized statewide for all MNICS agencies from this location. When needed, requests for Canadian aircraft are also initiated and coordinated from the air desk. Last year the DNR responded to 489 requests for aerial firefighting assets, including helicopters and air tankers, on 198 fires in Minnesota.

New space

Aviation desk flight following demonstration

Aviation desk flight following demonstration

Once cramped and noisy, the revamped space design includes new desks, monitors, computers and electronic maps. In the heat of fire season, at least five dispatchers can now work comfortably and efficiently. Ultimately, during a busy fire season these technology upgrades have the potential to improve efficiency, enhance safety and deliver value.

“These improvements will help our dispatchers especially when we have multiple planes or helicopters in the air on red flag days. When there are numerous fires, we need more tankers in the air and dispatchers on hand,” said Bill Schuster, DNR wildfire aviation supervisor.

Upgrades

Not only is there more room to work, but dispatchers now have better tools. The electronic map and information board is visually bright, interactive and can be seen by all dispatchers in the unit.

A computer aided dispatch (CAD) program was just launched as a pilot project at three dispatch locations: MIFC, the Brainerd Air Tanker Base and Park Rapids Area DNR Forestry office. This system allows dispatchers from multiple locations to view maps and ongoing, real-time fire information about the location of a fire, potential flight hazards, aquatic invasive species and the number of aircraft dispatched to a particular fire.

“This program has a lot of functionality,” said Linda Bruss, air desk team leader. “Previously, we had multiple processes in order to achieve what WildCAD has in one system without duplicating effort.”

(Front) Bill Schuster distributes information to (L-R) Dan Carroll, Bruce Jourdain, Greg Peterson and other aviation workshop participants

(Front) Bill Schuster distributes information to (L-R) Dan Carroll, Bruce Jourdain, Greg Peterson and other aviation workshop participants

Automated Flight Following (AFF) has been incorporated into Minnesota DNR Forestry operations to follow flights and track aircraft location online. This replaces a manual map and voice system. The AFF updates every few minutes with the direction of travel, air speed and location of all aircraft. This information is critical especially if emergencies occur.

Another technological upgrade includes the use of iPads by aviators that detect fires and provide a “size up” of the fire that includes the fire size, fire behavior, access for ground crews and if structures or other values are threatened by the fire. “Air Attack” officers have also found the iPad to be a valuable tool. They fly above fires to direct tactical aircraft operations, ensure airspace safety and coordinate with ground personnel in regard to firefighting tactics. According to Dan Carroll, who emphasizes safety first when using these applications, iPads can dynamically provide critical incident Aviation fire traffic arearesponse information. Carroll, a seasoned Air Attack member, said that iPads are currently used in:

  1. Flight planning: Ability to determine shortest and safest routes and estimate fuel needs.
  2. Increasing situational awareness: View restricted areas, surface wind speeds, infested lakes, obstacles and different land ownership areas.
  3. Increasing safety for firefighters on the ground: Air attack crews can provide firefighters on the ground with details on the safest and shortest routes or terrain conditions that might hamper access
  4. Crew resource management: The pilot and air attack can make decisions together based on real-time information that reduces guess work.
  5. Air space navigation: Adjust flight routes to avoid hazardous weather, restricted areas or find the shortest distance back to a tanker base.
  6. Communication: Email or text photos; iPads have a FaceTime app so you can debrief pilots or firefighters at a distance.
  7. Documentation: Compile photos, mission logs and other information.
  8. Added efficiency: Provides firefighters and fire managers with enhanced intelligence such as photos/videos of the fire, incoming weather systems, road names, addresses and the distance from fire to nearest structures.

Recognition

Commissioner Tom Landwehr

Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr

On March 24, Commissioner Tom Landwehr joined Minnesota DNR staff at the GeneralAndrews Wildfire Training Center. He recognized Bill Schuster and his wildfire aviation team for their efforts to improve the program, protect lives, preserve property and protect resources through aerial wildfire suppression.

Aloft

Minnesota fire season is under way.  During the past week, additional helicopters, single engine air tankers (SEAT) and FireBoss aircraft are positioned at tanker bases and helibases throughout Minnesota. In the air or on the ground, the DNR wildfire aviation program has upped its game, ready to fight fires and assist in mutual aid among its aviation partners.

 

Posted in News, News / Photos, wildfire aviation | Tagged | Comments Off on Upgrades and awards for wildfire aviation program

More counties begin burning restrictions April 4

DNR press release March 31, 2016

Beginning Monday, April 4, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will start burning restrictions in several additional counties as conditions for wildfires have increased. The cool weather accompanied by snow or rain kept fire incidences low in the past two weeks. However, last year’s vegetation is dry and can easily catch on fire even if it has rained or snowed.   

Restrictions Map4.1.2016Open burning restrictions will take effect in the following counties: Becker, Beltrami, Cass (southern Cass restrictions are already in effect), Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Pennington, Polk (east of County Road 6 from the Mahnomen County line to the Red Lake County line) and Roseau.

During spring burning restrictions residents are not allowed to burn brush or yard waste. Restrictions usually begin two weeks after the snow melts and remain in place until summer green-up occurs. This is typically a four- to six-week time period. Minnesota reports the greatest number of wildfires in April and May, and most are caused by people. Putting restrictions in place during this time has significantly cut down on wildfire numbers and size.

As these restrictions take effect throughout the state, it’s a good idea to know the location of your municipal brush collection site. There are alternatives to burning yard debris or dead standing grass. Consider hauling brush to a collection site or chipping fallen branches and trees for mulch. With an early fire season ahead, it is wise to use caution and recognize that fire can spread quickly in windy and warm conditions. Anyone who starts a fire may be financially responsible for suppression costs and damage to structures.

For more information on fire condition and burning restrictions, visit the DNR website and the burning restrictions Web page,

Posted in Burning permits and restrictions | Comments Off on More counties begin burning restrictions April 4

Update: 2016 Minnesota wildland fire training

Just in time for fire season, the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) training unit is finishing up a full roster of training so the firefighting community is qualified, ‘carded’ and ready to respond to wildfires and all-hazard incidents.

MNICS Public Information Officer workshop participants

Public information officers

Since last October, more than 700 students or participants have completed dozens of courses. Though significant threat of wildfires wane from October through March, it’s coursework, teaching and training that keep wildland firefighters and incident command teams just as busy as when they are out in the field.

“Our 2015-2016 training season has been very full,” said Todd Manley, MIFC training coordinator. “We serve a great group of folks, and have brought in partners, who rank up the quality of education that we deliver. We are wholly geared toward safety and continuous improvement,” he said “and we intend to build on this success.”

Last October, the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) and Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training & Education (MBFTE) sponsored an “At the Point of Spear” program to help response leaders build cohesive, adaptive and resilient teams. It was a unique opportunity for structural and wildland firefighters to learn together. More leadership coursework is being developed for this fall.

In December, MNICS held its annual meeting drawing nearly 200 participants from throughout Minnesota. It is a time to review accomplishments, set future goals, share success stories and analyze ways to improve. The MNICS Task Force and Board of Directors convene during the annual meeting to chart progress and set priorities for the coming year.

MNICS 2015 annual meeting

2015 Wildfire Academy instructors

In February, 112 participants attended the Section Chiefs Academy that was sponsored by the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (GLFFC). Held in Duluth, the courses educate incident management system sections – operations, safety, liaison officer, finance, planning, logistics and public information officers – to hone their skills. Minnesota has three incident management teams that are activated during fires or all-hazard emergencies.

Operations section chief participants 2016

2016 operations section participants

“Winter training prepares us for spring forest fires,” said Ron Stoffel, Minnesota DNR. “Classroom training provides a basis for the hands-on skills that firefighters and IMTs need to have in order to work in the forest, at fires or in the field.”

The agency also coordinates refresher workshops for dispatchers, public information officers, map experts, information technology specialists, helitack and aviation personnel and fire truck crews. Together, these workers form the backbone to support the incident command system and assist MNICS incident teams when they are mobilized to fires in Minnesota or western states.

In spring, incident management team (IMT) members and forestry staffers take work capacity tests to gauge their stamina and physical fitness. The arduous pack test consists of a three-mile hike with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes or less. The moderate field test is a two-mile hike in 30 minutes carrying a 25-pound pack; and the light field test is one mile in 16 minutes or less with no pack.

IC Greg Peterson, Bureau of Indian Affairs/MNICS 2016 Task Force chair

Incident Commander Greg Peterson, Bureau of Indian Affairs and MNICS 2016 Task Force chair

“Our teams put in long days under rough conditions,” said Incident Commander Greg Peterson, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “The work capacity tests help ensure safety and are a way for all of us to be ready for fire season,” Peterson said. He co-leads MNICS Team B and has overseen many wildfires during his career with the BIA.

This year’s Wildfire Academy will be held June 6-10 at Itasca Community College in June. The Academy offers 30 courses to train or improve skills; many are hands-on and outdoors. Spots are reserved for Minnesota fire department members so the Academy is balanced with a mix of wildland and structural firefighter registrants. If you do not work for an agency, and are interested in attending the Academy, volunteer assistance grants may be available. Contact Tim.Oland@state.mn.us for grant information.

Posted in Incidents, training | Comments Off on Update: 2016 Minnesota wildland fire training

Arson investigators meet this week

Dust devil kicks upAs fire season in Minnesota gets underway, a team of arson investigators will meet this week at Camp Ripley to exchange information and sharpen their skills. On Monday, March 28th Minnesota DNR staff members conducted a prescribed burn to prepare for the training. The photo, by William “B.J.” Glesener, fire behavior coordinator at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC), shows a whirlwind or ‘dust devil’ that funneled smoke upward. To be an arson investigator, it requires five years or more of training for forestry and conservation officers.

Posted in Incidents, training | Comments Off on Arson investigators meet this week

Register now for June academy

banner for wildfire academyThe 2016 Wildfire Academy, June 6-10, Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota is open for registration. Priority registration deadline for MNICS agency participants is April 22. Otherwise, register by May 16 to avoid late fees. Spots fill quickly. See the Advanced Minnesota website for details.

Posted in training | Comments Off on Register now for June academy

Successful prescribed burn completed

Mud & Goose Lake RXMNICS partners from the US-Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Minnesota DNR concluded a successful 1740-acre prescribed burn yesterday (03/24/16) in the Chippewa National Forest next to Mud and Goose Lakes in Itasca county. A total of 36 staff members from multiple agencies conducted the burn near the town of Ball Club. A DNR helicopter was used for aerial ignition by using plastic sphere dispensers (PSD) that are dropped and ignite on contact. Photo credit: Elizabeth Schmidt, USFS-Chippewa.

Mud & Goose Lake RX burn

 

Posted in News, Prescribed Burning | Comments Off on Successful prescribed burn completed

Spring burning restrictions take effect March 21 for central Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will start burning restrictions in the central part of the state beginning March 21. In the past few weeks, firefighters have responded to wildfires in central Minnesota as conditions for fire have increased.

Open burning restrictions will take effect in the following counties: Aitkin, Anoka, Benton, Carlton, Cass (that portion south of the Chippewa National Forest boundary), Chisago, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington and Wright. See the March 17 DNR news release for details.

Minnesota Spring 2016 Burning Restrictions Map

Posted in Burning permits and restrictions, News | Comments Off on Spring burning restrictions take effect March 21 for central Minnesota

Fire season looms ahead

Warming temperatures, receding snow and a quick glance at the DNR’s open burning website is a reminder the spring fire season is fast approaching.

Wildfire could be very dangerous in the Brainerd lakes area this spring with a great amount of damaged trees remaining to be cleared after last summer’s large wind storm event. Curt Cogan, Backus Area Forest Supervisor, reminds the public with the snow melting and grass areas becoming brown and bare, burning permits are once again being required to undertake open burning of vegetative debris. Full article.

Posted in Incidents | Comments Off on Fire season looms ahead