Because fire danger is high to very high across major portions of the state due to the continued drought conditions, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is initiating burning restrictions in northwestern and north-central Minnesota, beginning at 1 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23.
The counties having limitations placed on campfires and open burning include: Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Cass (north of Highway 200), Clearwater, Douglas, Hubbard, Kanabec, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, Stearns, Todd, and Wadena.
Campfires or recreational fires outside municipalities are allowed only in a designated receptacle designed for such use and associated with a residence, staffed campgrounds such as state parks, or resorts. In addition, no burning permits will be issued to the general public and no use of fireworks will be allowed outside of municipalities.
The severe drought has brought wildfire conditions to the point that fires start easily from sparks or windblown embers and spread rapidly. Presently, without the ability to use water to drown campfires, it will be difficult to properly extinguish them.
The DNR and other wildfire agencies in the state have brought in additional resources and placed them on a Level 5 alert, the highest planning level. The Minnesota Incident Command System agencies are concerned that prolonged lack of rainfall has allowed even the large woody debris and standing conifer trees to ignite easily as well as areas with peat soils. Both lead to difficult demands on firefighting resources to protect life and property.
According to the DNR, fall weekends bring many people outdoors to recreate, including hunters, campers, and others who want to have campfires.
The DNR urges everyone to use extreme caution where campfires are allowed. Charcoal fires are not limited at this time, but they should not be left unattended. Make sure they are completely out before leaving. Recreationists should also pay attention to parking locations in the woods. Hot engines and catalytic converters can ignite fires, particularly in these dry conditions. Check that spark arrestors on recreational vehicles are working properly.
Fire conditions change quickly. For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.