Spring burning restrictions announced May 21
Despite extended rainy conditions and cool temperatures, burning restrictions remain in effect in Crow Wing County and the southern portion of Cass County.
Mark Mortensen, DNR program forester in Brainerd, said brush fires and other types of fires that would typically require a burning permit are being restricted until the heightened danger of brush fires has decreased. The DNR Forestry Office in Brainerd issued burning restrictions for area counties April 21.
“We do allow some burning in special circumstances that would have to be authorized by a forester, which would be for some type of an absolute necessity, such as a clearing project for building construction,” Mortensen said. “Something that has to be done that cannot wait until these restrictions are lifted when the grass starts to get green, which could be mid to late May.”
As of May 6, Mortensen said there have been 22 brush fires throughout southern Cass County and all of Crow Wing County. These fires have had various causes. One brush fire west of Ponto Lake near Backus was caused by a power line downed by a tree. Mortensen said people caused most brush fires.
“They’ve been some type of negligent act by people. We’ve had a couple caused by campfires. A couple of them by people not totally extinguishing brush piles they had prior to the time when the restrictions went in place,” Mortensen said. “We had a couple caused by equipment operations. It’s been a variety of causes. There’s been no single main thing that stands out.”
Mortensen said area brush fires have not resulted in any major events.
“Everything we’ve had has been small and fairly easy to control,” he said.
Fires matching the official definition of a recreational fire are not being restricted. These fires cannot be wider or taller than three feet, and there must be no combustible grass or material within five feet in any direction from a campfire.
“Those fires are legal. We do not have any kind of restrictions on them at this time. If it does get dry or warm, we may restrict that in the future,” Mortensen said.
Even though they are not restricted, Mortensen said it is important for people to never leave a campfire unattended, and to make sure the fire is fully extinguished when finished.
Mortensen said buried embers in an extinguished brush fire are known to have caused at least one brush fire that occurred before the burning restrictions were issued. Whether burning a brush pile or a campfire, it is important to make sure the embers are cold before leaving it unattended.
“There are hot embers lying underneath the ash. It appears the fire is out because there are no open flames, but there are still hot sparks and embers underneath the ash,” Mortensen said. “Generally, what happens is when people are burning during the evening during the time when we are allowing permits and it’s legal, they don’t check the following morning to make sure that pile of ashes is totally cold and out. Later in the day, when the wind starts to pick up, the cool material on the top of the ash will blow off and those hot embers will be exposed. When they blow out onto some receptive or dry vegetation, some fire can start from that.”
Depending on the pile of ashes and how deep the embers are buried, Mortensen said a partially extinguished fire could be a fire hazard for days.
He said there is no way to predict when burning restrictions will be lifted, as it is dependent on weather. If you have a brush pile, it is illegal to burn it during these restrictions without special permission from a forester. Burning restrictions are not expected to be cancelled soon due to rain.
Mortensen said, “This extended rainy period won’t do anything, except it might green up the grass a little bit.”
Contact your local forestry office or fire marshal before burning to find out if burning restrictions are still in place.
Travis Grimler can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at facebook.com/PEJTravis and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.