Spring dip increases wildfire danger

White pine generation under thinned red pine (UMN photo).

Even though spring took its time this year, Minnesota is now seeing buds and blooms but beware of the ‘spring dip.’ It’s the time of year when red pine needles reach maximum dryness and are extremely flammable. Foliar moisture reduction in conifers contributes to an increase in fire activity because flames can spread quickly when ignited to torch and crown in trees.

With recent widespread precipitation across most of the state, there is moisture on the ground right now but it will quickly dissipate as clouds turn into sun and temperatures warm up again. The potential for peak crown fire activity in dry pine needles is like gasoline to wildfires. Forests can readily burn when leaf/needle moisture is low. Learn more about the relationship of foliar moisture to ignition in this 2014 Forest and Fire Research article.

Aerial shot of May 5 Lake Beauty Fire (Karin Anderson photo).
Quick aerial suppression by MNICS wildfire aircraft saved this home near Little Falls (Karin Anderson photo).

Now that outdoor weather is here, and as anglers and recreationists head outside, please be careful with campfires. Clear flammable material three feet from fire area. Attend to it at all times. Keep a handy source of water. Stir the ashes and be sure the campfire is completely out before leaving.

You can learn more about Minnesota burning restrictions, wildfire risk and MNICS agencies’ concern for public safety in Paul Lundgren’s KAXE radio interview this morning (about 15 minutes).

Paul Lundgren, state wildfire section manager