The spring wildfire season in Minnesota just started, but already more than half a dozen grass fires were reported recently in Brainerd and Pillager.
"Since Friday, we responded to seven grass fires-Baxter and then mainly the southern part of Crow Wing County-Long Lake Township and Crow Wing Township," Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes said.
From January to April 5, there were 7,091 wildfires nationwide compared to 11,195 wildfires in the same period in 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
"A few of them that we responded to were threatening some structures, but no structures were damaged-just all grassland, swamp area," Holmes said of the recent fires.
About 171,207 acres were burned nationwide so far in 2019, compared with 432,420 during the same time period in 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
"None of them were suspicious," Holmes said of the fires. "Just with the conditions the way they were, it was definitely drier out than people think it is. With the weather conditions and the heat, the fires moved a little quicker than most people anticipated, I think."
Pillager Fire Chief Greg Ringler said a grass fire broke out Friday evening east of Squaw Point Road that involved the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"DNR was on scene. There was a small field on fire-probably burned 2, 3 acres," Ringler said.
The DNR wildfire aviation uses helicopters and air tankers to put out wildfires, according to the Minnesota Incident Command System, and during high fire periods, up to 40 aircraft may be on standby or working to extinguish wildfires.
Ernie's on Gull Lake was in the vicinity of the Squaw Point Road fire, but the grass fire did not spread or get close enough to threaten property or people in the area, according to Ringler.
"Unknown what started it at this point, but it's drier out there than people think or than it appears," Ringler said.
Holmes said burning permits are now required throughout the state. A burning permit grants the permit holder the right to burn small amounts of dry leaves, plant clippings, brush and clean untreated or unpainted wood, as long as weather conditions do not pose a fire hazard.
"Despite the recent snow and rain, the warm weather and wind dries everything out very quickly. I would anticipate the Minnesota DNR will be imposing burning restrictions this week if the weather remains dry and warm," Holmes said.
Grass fires fought by Brainerd firefighters
• 12:40 p.m. Friday, April 19: 5400 block of Clearwater Road, Baxter.
• 3:13 p.m. Friday: 8600 block of County Road 123.
• 5:38 p.m. Friday: 10000 block of Heron Street.
• 6:16 p.m. Friday: 9800 block of Home Place Drive.
• 3:08 p.m. Saturday, April 20: 11000 County Road 144.
• 6:31 p.m. Saturday: 9900 block of Ravenswood Road.
• 9:50 p.m. Saturday: 15000 block of Thompson Road.
Source: Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes