Spring green up starts; central Minnesota burning restrictions continue

Early precipitation has been helpful, but 2021 and 2022 should pose a warning

Minnesota statewide fire danger and burning restrictions for Tuesday, May 9, 2023.
Graphics / Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The lakes area has a jump-start toward green up — the conditions necessary to end the annual spring fire restrictions — thanks to ample snowpack and early precipitation.

However, it's not quite time for burning restrictions to end. Indeed, they are in place for many Minnesota counties, including Crow Wing and Cass counties.

"Burning restrictions were just implemented first on Friday (May 5). And they are expected to be on anywhere from a week to two weeks," said Craig Schultz, Backus team leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division.

"This year, I think with having received the good snowpack, things have greened up relatively quickly as the snow receded," Schultz said. "We seem to have fair level of near surface moisture conditions. The upper surfaces in the soil are somewhat remaining moist and helping things green up relatively quickly. So burning restrictions may be short lived this year."

Those chomping at the bit to start burning should remain cautiously optimistic, with consideration of 2021 and 2022, which threw a wrench into the summer season much later than the area's traditional wildfire season.


First was 2021, which started with early spring precipitation that died off for almost the entire summer.

"2021 was a prolonged wildland fire season," Schultz said. "We never really got much precipitation after the first few events in the spring and it stayed dry well into the summer, which is abnormal.

"If we don't continue to get precipitation on a somewhat steady, regular basis like we normally would into the spring and things dry up, things may green up initially but then those fields will become dry and things could increase in fire danger," he said.

Precipitation in 2022 caused a fast green up, but fire season returned thanks to an unforeseen abundance of tinder.

Nisswa fire chief says it burns faster than gasoline.

"I guess what we would consider a normal wildland fire season, we thought, was pretty well over and then we got about a dozen fires within the first week of June that were pretty much mostly associated with the poplar fuzz," Schultz said.

So far, this spring has been an average spring for fire risk and wildfire calls for Schultz.

"Within the last week we probably had about 10 fires over the course of five or six days, which isn't outside the norm," he said.

Those fires were generally the result of people burning yard debris without sufficiently containing the flames, or they didn't have sufficient water to control their fire.


In some cases, fires that were burned while there was snow on the ground were not sufficiently extinguished. In those cases, embers may lay buried at the bottom of a pile until things begin to dry out, at which time the flames spread unnoticed, Schultz said.

It is the responsibility of anyone who is burning a bonfire or yard waste to first buy and activate an official burning permit from a licensed fire warden.

When fire restrictions end, those who burn should only do so in a space that has been prepared for burning in such a way that the fire is not surrounded by flammable materials and is in some way restricted so that it does not escape.

Futhermore, those who are burning yard waste should be aware of wind conditions, which can threaten structures, grasses and forests when combined with a fire.

Finally, whoever burns is responsible for attending their fire at all times and extinguishing it completely when done, to the point that the ashes and embers are no longer hot.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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