Wildfire Prevention Week is April 15-21, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding Minnesotans to take steps to help prevent wildfires. Recent rain and snow throughout the state has temporarily decreased Minnesota’s wildlife danger rating, but during our ongoing drought wildfires remain a threat across the state.
“Most wildfires occur in the spring, between the time when snow melts and vegetation turns green,” said Larry Himanga, DNR’s wildfire prevention coordinator. “This spring’s wildfire season started earlier than normal and fires have been burning with greater intensity. Severe fire conditions have put a strain on our wildland firefighters and fire departments.”
Every year, DNR firefighters respond to more than an average 1,500 wildfires each year. In Minnesota, 98 percent of wildfires are caused by people, and the number one reason is escaped debris-burning fires. So far this year, the Minnesota DNR has recorded 533 fires that have burned 14,613 acres.
The Department of Natural Resources encourages landowners to find alternatives to burning debris, such as chipping or composting. This is especially true for landowners affected by last July’s blow down storms in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Landowners who wish to burn should check burning restrictions in their area. In those areas where burning is allowed, be sure to obtain a burning permit, be careful with debris fires and remember that piled debris can hold hot coals for several days to several months. Burning permits can be obtained from local fire wardens, forestry offices or by visiting the DNR’s website.
The DNR urges everyone to be safe with fire, and to have tools and water handy before lighting a fire. Always make certain fires are completely out before leaving. As Smokey Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires!”