Fire danger is critical today

Burning restrictions are in force and Red Flag Warnings cover much of the state

Fire danger is critical today over much of eastern Minnesota and far western Wisconsin. In the past week, warm temperatures have rapidly melted snow. Wind and warmth have decreased relative humidity (RH) levels creating dangerous fire conditions. Burning restrictions are in effect for most of the state. The Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) IMT-Blue Type-2 team is on alert. The statewide planning/preparedness level is at three.

Fire weather conditions

At 0342 today the National Weather Service-Twin Cities issued a Red Flag Warning  for eastern Minnesota (Morrison, Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Benton, Sherburne, Isanti, Chisago, Wright, Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, Washington, Carver, Scott, Dakota, Le Sueur, Rice, Goodhue, Waseca,Steele, Freeborn, Polk, St. Croix counties; and Pierce, Dunn and Pepin counties in Wisconsin). Last week, the NWS issued two Red Flag Warnings for central and northwestern Minnesota where dry and windy conditions prevail.

BIA Matthew Petite, faller-trainee, Rush Lake Fire, April 25, 2018, BIA (Matt Goseyun photo)

BIA Matthew Petite, faller-trainee, Rush Lake Fire, April 25, 2018 (Matt Goseyun photo)

Fire activity

As of April 28, MNICS agencies reported 305 wildfires for 3,994 acres burned. Over the weekend, approximately 107 wildfires occurred with a 50-acre wildfire near Sandstone, and a 25-acre fire near Bemidji. Fire team leaders in Akeley, Bemidji, Brainerd, Breezy Point, Cambridge, Deer River, Hibbing, Lino Lakes, Little Falls, Park Rapids, Pine Point, Red Lake, Sandstone and Warroad reported wildfire activity.

On April 25, the 104-acre Rush Lake Fire was the result of two fires merging in Becker County that threatened several structures. Approximately 48 interagency personnel fought the fire involving multiple wildfire suppression aircraft, engines, water tenders, bulldozers and tracked vehicles.

If you fly, we can’t

At 12:30 this afternoon, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or drone was spotted at the eight-acre Prairie Fire, four miles northeast of Little Falls, Minnesota. The area around a wildfire is a no-drone-zone. The incursion stopped aerial wildfire suppression forcing a helicopter to land and return to the nearby helibase.

Quite simply, if you fly we can’t. Lives are at risk if you fly a drone/UAS near wildfires. It puts the pilot and crew at risk along with increasing the threat of wildfire spread that threatens life, property and resources. Let’s work together to improve pilot, air crew and public safety.

If you fly, we can't. The area around a wildfire is a no-drone-zone.Public safety

Minnesota had its first wildfire-related fatality in 2018. A landowner burning yard waste without a permit attempted to put out a one-acre grass fire that escaped from his burning debris pile. Reports indicate that the 65-year-old Akeley resident likely died as the result of a heart attack. Learn more about how to safely burn landscape debris and yard waste. When statewide fire danger is high, burning restrictions go into effect among Minnesota’s 87 counties.

MNICS officials urge the public to check the DNR burning restrictions and fire danger website before cleaning up residences, properties or cabin yard areas. Fines result in burning without a permit or when restrictions are in place. More importantly, public and firefighter safety is of utmost concern. Officials advise residents to call 911 (‘call early, call often’) and to not to attempt fire suppression on their own.

Burning permits and restrictions

Check Minnesota DNR burning permits and restrictions website

With a burning permit, Minnesotans can burn small amounts of dry leaves, plant clippings, brush and clean, dry wood as long as weather conditions do not pose a fire hazard. You need a burning permit for a fire more than three-feet high and three-feet in diameter; or if the ground is not completely covered by a minimum of three-feet of snow; or if the fire is not contained in an approved burner (such as a charcoal grill or camp stove).

In 2001, the Minnesota DNR instituted spring burning permit restrictions in fire prone areas before ‘green-up’ occurs. Before leaves are on trees and vegetation grows, fire danger increases because sparks, embers and flames can spread rapidly. Burning restrictions do no constitute a burning ban or prohibit campfires unless fire danger is extreme.

Resources

The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) the Minnesota Interagency Coordination Center (MNCC) and MNICS agencies are fully staffed this weekend. Engines, crews, personnel and aircraft are positioned strategically throughout the state. All tanker base locations (Warroad, Princeton, Ely, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Bemidji and Brainerd) are on duty. Aerial supervision platforms are stationed in Bemidji, Brainerd, Hibbing and Warroad. Two Type-1 air tankers are in Hibbing (BAe-146) and Brainerd (RJ-185) in addition to a helitanker in Hibbing. Also, five Fire Boss’ aircraft, three single engine tankers (SEATs) and 10 helicopters are available along with the Cessna 310. The Cessna-182 is flying detection in the Chippewa National Forest and the Quest Kodiak is on air attack duty in Hibbing today. Yesterday, a total of 14 aircraft were dispatched to eight fires primarily in the northwest and central part of the state.

RJ-85 air tanker with 3K-gallon payload and speed up to 300 mph
RJ-85 air tanker with 3K-gallon payload and speed up to 300 mph (Keith Reidel photo).