The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cautions residents and visitors in northern Minnesota to be aware of elevated fire conditions through the weekend. An unintentional spark from a campfire or other outdoor activity in the hot, gusty and abnormally dry conditions could ignite a wildfire.
William Glesener, DNR wildfire operations supervisor, says that despite the green-up of vegetation, many areas in northern Minnesota are two-to-three inches below average for spring rainfall. This shortfall has dried out trees, shrubs and grasses in the region, and when combined with forecast conditions—temperatures near 100 degrees, low humidity and gusty winds—the result is an increased risk for wildfires.
“Don’t be fooled just because things look green,” Glesener said. “This is a dangerous time for wildfires.”
He notes that, as a result of dry conditions, wildfire response crews have reported more intense wildfire activity than is typical for this time of year.
“With nine out of ten wildfires known to be human-caused, it will take everyone doing their part to prevent wildfires this weekend,” said Casey McCoy, DNR fire prevention supervisor. “Be extra cautious with campfires and any outdoor activities that could produce heat or a spark as you enjoy the weekend.”
Fire prevention reminders include:
- When enjoying a campfire, keep the fire small and manageable, no more than three feet in diameter and three feet high.
- Keep a hose or water nearby.
- After a campfire, drown-stir-repeat until it is out cold.
- If a campfire is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
- Fireworks are not allowed in state forests, state parks, or on any other state lands.
- Hot mufflers on recreational vehicles or other equipment can ignite tall grass if care isn’t taken whenever the vehicle is stopped and idling.
DNR wildland firefighters throughout the state are ready to respond on the ground and in the air. Aircraft provide critical support to firefighters through detection flights on established routes and by dropping water or fire retardant to slow a fast-moving wildfire. Because fire danger remains high-to-extreme, aerial detection and suppression efforts will continue.
The DNR reminds everyone that a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) may ban the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) within five miles of a wildland fire. Even without TFR, drones pose a risk to aircraft. While most drone pilots know the regulations and the importance of not flying near wildfires, drone incursions continue to happen in Minnesota.
“The safety of air and ground resources is a priority,” said Glesener. “When a drone is discovered in restricted airspace, all suppression aircraft are required to land or return to base until the air space is clear. That’s valuable time that could be used to slow and suppress a wildfire. When you fly over a wildfire, we can’t.”
Minnesota’s wildland fire management agencies report that nearly 1,200 wildland fires have burned an estimated 33,500 acres since the beginning of March 2021. The dry conditions have been building since last fall, and many areas in northern Minnesota remain abnormally dry or in moderate drought.
Fire prevention is a shared responsibility. Monitoring weather conditions, checking current fire danger conditions at the DNR statewide fire danger and burning restrictions map, and following the fire prevention tips above will help to prevent wildfires during high to extreme fire danger. If you do spot a wildfire, call 911.