DNR rural fire program aids Pine City

DNR rural fire department program coordinator Tim Oland stands near new Pine City water tender

Rural Fire Department Program Coordinator Tim Oland takes a look the water tender truck that was converted from a military chassis, saving the Pine City fire department about $200,000.

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DNR question of the week

Question of the week: burning permits

Q: Do I still need an open burning permit for my brush pile even though it is winter?

DNR Burning Restriction Map

Burning Permits in Minnesota Feb. 2016

A: The snow and cold of a Minnesota winter generally make this time of the year a better and safer time to burn brush piles. However, when there is less than three inches of snow cover, open burning permits are required by law. Also, many communities require a burning permit no matter the time of year. Contact your local fire chief to see if a permit is required. Composting and mulching is an alternative to burning and a better way to prevent a potential wildfire.

Contact your local DNR Forestry office to find out if you need a permit before burning any brush pile. For more information about burning permits, visit the DNR website or contact Linda Gormanson, DNR wildfire prevention supervisor

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Incident command leadership featured on WDIO-TV

WDIO interview on Feb. 3, 2016 about incident command leadership

MNICS incident commanders featured on WDIO-TV in Duluth

WDIO-TV in Duluth interviewed incident command leaders on Feb. 3, 2016 during the section chiefs academy training, sponsored by the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact. Coordinated by the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center training unit, more than 120 students and 38 instructors took part in courses throughout the week at the Holiday Inn Duluth.

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Incident command meets the media

During the MNICS section chiefs academy in Duluth, Feb. 1-5, 2016, more than 120 students are taking courses to qualify for various aspects of wildland firefighting and emergency management preparedness. During the public information officers course this morning Renee Passel, WDIO TV and John Myers, Duluth New Tribune, joined the class and incident command to discuss safe ways to partner during emergencies or wildfire incidents.

2016 Section Chiefs Academy

2016 Section Chiefs Academy

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MNICS hockey team takes title

On Jan. 16, 2016 the MNICS hockey team took the Wildfire on Ice championship beating the Superior National Forest team (4-1). More than 200 folks attended the fifth annual event at the Walker Area Community Center. Proceeds totaled $8,100 to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Proud of his team that also took the championship in 2014, MNICS captain Mike Mackey said he is always looking for new members. Other tournament teams include:

  • US Department of the Interior: Captain Seth Grimm,  US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • US Superior National Forest: Co-captains Mike Mansson, Gunflint ranger district and Vance Hazelton, from the US Chequamegon National Forest
  • MN Department of Natural Resources: Co-captains: Dan Wiley, Cass Lake and Pat Wherley, Cloquet, Minnesota

MNICS Task Force chair Greg Peterson, BIA, joined tournament founder Kurt Schierenbeck and Mike Wurst in the age 60-years or older group, which had eight registrants.

(Photos courtesy of Rebekah Luedtke, Mel Rice and Arlene Putikka-Tacker)

Minnesota Interagency Fire Center coordinator, Tom Fasteland was recognized for more than 35 years of state service and oversight of the MIFC dispatch unit. Next year’s event is slated for Jan. 13, 2017.  For a recap, see the Wildfire on Ice website or coverage in the Walker Pilot-Independent.

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MNICS annual meeting materials available online

Some 100 participants attended the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) annual meeting, Dec. 1-3, 2015  in Duluth, Minnesota. Highlights of the annual meeting include:

  • Legacy Award given to Jim Hinds for his incident command service throughout many fire seasons.
  • A presentation by Dr. Brent Ruby, University of Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism. He provided an overview on the relationship of heat stress, hydration, rest and performance as it relates to wildland firefighters.
  • Certificates of appreciation for incident command staff and volunteers who helped create and host the June 2015 MNICS Wildfire Academy at Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
  • Recognition of Tom Fasteland, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) and other MNICS staff and volunteers who have or will retire soon.
  • MNICS Task Force and Board of Directors meetings on Dec. 1, 2015 where policy decisions were made and capital improvements were discussed. Members also reviewed accomplishments during the past year.
  • Working teams (e.g., GISS, Finance, Communications, Information Management, Dispatch)  developed 2016 goals and deliverables. Team chairs delivered reports during the general session on Dec. 3, 2015.

Check it out:

MNICS Annual Report in PDF Format

MNICS Annual Report in PowerPoint Format

Annual meeting photos on Shutterfly

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GLFFC award goes to railroad museum

The Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (GLFFC) recently presented the North Shore Scenic Railroad Museum with an executive award for its support and assistance to host a wildfire investigator training last year.

Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact Award

Curt Cogan (R) presents award to Max Medlin (L).

A total of 40 participants from GLFCC agencies – Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario – plus trainees from California and Saskatchewan took the daylong course. Investigators learned about wildfires that may be caused from rail road cars or trains passing through wilderness areas. Sparks from train brakes or hot cinders from smoke stacks can ignite land in dry, hot or windy conditions.

“But there are a lot of things to look for when investigating this type of fire,” said Curt Cogan, DNR area forest supervisor, Backus, Minnesota. “It’s important not to jump to conclusions and consider all sources and causes with these incidents.”

The North Shore Scenic Railroad is located at the Historic Union Depot in Duluth, Minnesota. Cogan said the depot was a great spot to hold this type of training.

“The staff and facilities were great and we really appreciated North Shore’s assistance and hospitality.”

You can buy tickets online for a holiday train ride from Fitgers to the Duluth depot. From spring to fall, there are regular, daily excursions along the 28-mile track that runs to Two Harbors.

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MNICS team joins 5th annual fundraiser

Wildfire on Ice logoMark your calendar for Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 and an afternoon of fun and learning at the Walker Area Community Center. You can ice skate with Smokey Bear and meet members of the MNICS Fire Prevention Working team. In its fifth year, the free event is part of the Wildfire on Ice Hockey Tournament to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. See the website for details. Mail donations to Patrick Wherley, 1379 David Road, Cloquet, MN 55720.

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DNR lifts burning restrictions

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lifted  burning restrictions throughout Minnesota due to decreased fire danger because of precipitation and green-up. Burning permits are now available for burning of vegetative materials.

Although the state lifted restrictions, local counties or municipalities may have specific regulations that affect burning. Check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.

Up-to-date fire conditions and burning restrictions can be found on the Web page.

Also, because fire danger can change quickly, DNR foresters are able to restrict burning permits in individual counties whenever conditions warrant. This could occur if there is a dry, windy day where fires could start easily and burn quickly.

The DNR advises anyone doing burning to keep burn piles small, have a water supply nearby and stay with the fire until it is completely out. If fire escapes, the person who started the fire is responsible for the damage and suppression costs.

Burning permits are available through state and federal forestry offices, from local fire wardens or online by paying a $5 fee per calendar year. Online permits need to be activated on the day of the burn.

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Large wildfire near Gully underscores fire danger in northwestern Minnesota

Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT)

Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT)

On Monday, April 6, at about 9:00 a.m., Department of Natural Resources fire crews, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Goodridge Fire Department, responded to a wildfire north of Gully, adjacent to the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The fire, known as the Star Fire, burned approximately 807 acres of grass, cattails and a small area of aspen.

A combination of aerial and ground resources worked together to suppress the fire. DNR aerial attack resources from Bemidji, including a helicopter and two single engine air tankers (SEATs), cooled the active fire, which allowed ground crews and tracked vehicles to establish a fire line to clean it up. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

On Tuesday, Grygla DNR forestry staff worked surface peat with hand tools, digging it and mixing it with moist soil. Pockets of surface peat continue to burn, but 8-10 inches of frost is preventing spread deeper into the soil. The DNR continues to monitor the fire daily and will add resources if necessary.

“Dry conditions have created increased fire danger this spring,” said Adam Munstenteiger, Warroad forestry supervisor. “Fires can escape easily and spread rapidly.”

Most of northwestern Minnesota has received less than one inch of precipitation in the last 60 days and all of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions. Ongoing dry conditions mean the wildfire danger is much higher than normal this early in the year.

The DNR reminds people that open burning restrictions remain in northwestern Minnesota. Under these restrictions, open burning of brush or yard waste is prohibited.

Contact the DNR forestry office in Warroad for information on wildfire danger and burning permits or visit the DNR Web page on fire danger and burning permit restrictions at www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

Media contacts: Andy McGuire, Wannaska area forester, 218-425-7793, andy.mcguire@state.mn.us; Adam Munstenteiger, Warroad forestry supervisor, 218-386-1304, adam.munstenteiger@state.mn.us.

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Small fires can be destructive

Fire managers with the Department of Natural Resources urge caution with all fires. As of April 1 there have been 309 wildfires in Minnesota that have burned 2,362 acres.

“Even a small grass fire has the potential to injure people, and cause damage to property and resources,” said Ron Stoffel, DNR wildfire suppression supervisor. “Last week, a small grass fire ended up destroying a homeowner’s garage.”

When the snow melts, some landowners want to burn ditches and fields to get rid of tall, dead grass. People can legally perform these burns with a burning permit from the DNR. But even with a permit, any fire has the potential to be destructive and lead to the loss of outbuildings, homes and natural resources. Small fires can even claim lives.

“Large fires get most of the headlines, and they often cause excessive damage,” said Stoffel. “But we lose more outbuildings and homes to small 1- to 2-acre fires than to big ones.”

With continued dry to moderate drought conditions throughout most of the state, and an early start to spring, Minnesota is likely to see more than the average number of wildfires during the next two months. Low relative humidity and windy conditions increase the risk for damaging fires.

In Minnesota, more fires occur in April than any other month with an average of 775 fires that burn 19,669 acres. Therefore, the DNR restricts burning between snowmelt and vegetation green-up. Right now burning restrictions are in place in most Minnesota counties and will extend to more counties in the coming weeks. Burning restrictions usually last between four and six weeks.

Burning restrictions do not apply to campfires; they are still allowed. Clear an area around the campfire, watch it continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving.

For up-to-date information on fire danger and burning restrictions, visit the DNR website.

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Burning restrictions extend to more northern Minnesota counties

The Department of Natural Resources will extend burning restrictions in parts of north-central and northeastern Minnesota beginning April 1. Under these restrictions, open burning of brush or yard waste is prohibited.

Spring burning restrictions coincide with increasing fire potential throughout much of the state due to the early snow melt and dry fuels like grass and leaves. With the snow gone, exposed dead grass and brush can light easily and fires can spread quickly.

Debris burning is especially dangerous during April and May when most wildfires occur in Minnesota. Restrictions last until sufficient green vegetation forms, normally from four to six weeks.

Minnesota firefighters have already responded to several wildfires this spring. Grass fires can easily burn out of control. On March 23, a landowner burning grass near Cook lost control of a fire and lost a garage. Fortunately, the local fire department was able to save the home.

“Each year, we lose more outbuildings and homes to small 1- to 2-acre fires than to the big fires,” said Ron Stoffel, DNR wildfire suppression supervisor.

Counties can be quickly added to the restrictions list during dry, windy days when fires could easily burn out of control. Therefore, residents are encouraged to visit the burning restrictions Web page at or call their local DNR forestry office to obtain up-to-date information on fire danger and burning restrictions.

Many counties and municipalities have specific burning regulations or restrictions. Check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.

The burning restrictions do not apply to campfires; they are still allowed. Clear an area around the campfire, watch it continuously, and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving.

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