Lakes area a moderate fire risk; restrictions in place
Crow Wing and Cass counties are in the moderate range for fire danger risk, but officials say the area is leaning toward high risk.
Because of this, burning is restricted throughout the area.
“We have fuels on the ground - dead from over the winter - that are prone to being easily combustible,” said Craig Schultz, fire program forester for the Brainerd Department of Natural Resources office. “They are dead and dry, and we haven’t really had much precipitation in the last however many days. The spring is always the time of year with elevated fire danger.”
Variance permits are being given on a case-by-case basis, but primarily for agricultural and construction reasons.
Individuals are allowed to have campfires or cooking fires no more than 3 feet in height or diameter, so long as the fire is always attended to. Combustible materials must be kept at least 5 feet away from the flames.
“The large majority of issues we respond to are human-caused,” Schultz said. “A lot of that can be prevented just by people being more diligent about what they are burning and cognizant of weather forecasts and wind conditions.”
Residents can expect the restrictions to remain in place for the foreseeable future, barring an abundance of precipitation.
“Typically, the burning restrictions are left on until we have green-up,” Pequot Lakes Fire Chief Tom Nelson said. “With our lack of moisture in the county, that may be a while.”
Even with a bit of rain - less than 1/10th of an inch - fallen fuels would likely dry within an hour of having the sun shine on them again.
“It may be a bit deceiving for people in north-facing homes or on hillsides who may still have snow piled up, but open areas are thoroughly dried and fuels are ripe for elevated fire conditions,” Schultz said.
With most people staying home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pequot Lakes Fire Department is seeing what its chief called a fairly regular number of calls coming in, but its approach to interacting with homeowners has had to change.
“We have been on a few grass fires, and I know some other departments around here have too,” Nelson said. “Lately, just the commander of that scene talks to the homeowner or whoever is burning. Everyone else just stays away and does their own thing.”
More information, including up-to-date conditions and restrictions, can be found on the DNR website.
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.