Shoveling our April showers

Shows white out snow conditions
Downtown Minneapolis on April 14, 2018 (Star Tribune photo)

Typically, MNICS agencies respond to several hundred wildfires each spring. Although much of the state is currently breaking snowfall records for mid-April, on this day two years ago Minnesota’s wildfire season was vastly different. A few statistics from the Minnesota Interagency Coordination Center (MNCC) Intelligence office:

  • Statewide temperatures were mainly in the 70s (52 degrees in Roseau to 78 in Sandstone).
  • Relative humidity values – the amount of water in the air – hovered between 30 and 40 percent.
  • Fire danger was high in the northern half of Minnesota, very high in the southern half, and statewide preparedness was at Planning Level 4.
  • By May 21 2016, the Minnesota National Weather Service had issued a dozen Red Flag Warnings during the spring fire season.
  • As of April 16, 2016 MNICS agencies had reported 507 fires for 3,881 acres with two larger (100-plus acre) wildfires in Beltrami and Cass counties.
  • Burning restrictions were in effect for most of Minnesota.
  • The 1,000-hour fuel rate ranged from 17 to 20 percent.
  • By the first week in May most of the state had experienced ‘explosive’ wildfire conditions due to high winds, warm temperatures and dry conditions. More about the 2016 wildfire season.

Safety and prevention220px-Smokey3

In Minnesota it’s 2018 Wildfire Prevention Week, April 15-21. When the snow melts and spring actually arrives, these campfire and wildfire prevention tips will come in handy. According to Minnesota DNR, the number one cause of wildfires in the state is due to debris from escaped fires. “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.

Elsewhere, wildfire season ramps up

Over the weekend, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) reported a 2,144-acre fire in Clearwater County with creeping and smoldering in hardwood areas. No structures were threatened. Conditions there are vastly different from most other parts of the state where prescribed burning has been ongoing for a few weeks and burning permits are required.

historic fire level chart

This morning three DNR staffers left for the 246,000-acre Rhea Fire in Dewey County, Oklahoma where a state of emergency was declared last week due to ‘historically’ high fire danger. Pilot Luke Ettl and Air Tactical Ground Supervisor (ATGS) Dan Carroll and ATGS(t) Dean Krause will have air attack (‘bird dog’) duties in the DNR Quest Kodiak. A Red Flag Warning is issued for April 17 for a large portion of western Oklahoma, where new fires are likely to exhibit explosive rapid rates of spread, and ongoing fires will require extensive patrol and mop up to prevent escape.

L-R: Dean Krause, Dan Carroll, Luke Ettl leave Grand Rapids airport for the Rhea Fire (Julie Ettl photo)
L-R: Dean Krause, Dan Carroll, Luke Ettl leave Grand Rapids airport for the Rhea Fire in Oklahoma