At a time when the wildfire season is usually starting to wrap up, fires this week have been picking up in the Brainerd area.
The increase in grass fires coincides with the longest stretch of nice weather for the Brainerd area this spring — three days and counting of sunny skies, temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and low humidity.
“We’re not quite out of it yet, apparently,” said Chris Kobberdahl, DNR forestry technician in Brainerd, noting mid-May is usually the time when the chance for wildfires diminishes because of the green up of vegetation. “We’ve probably had more fires recently than we’ve had all year.”
Kobberdahl said DNR firefighters responded to four grass fires in the Crosby area on Sunday, a grass fire Monday on Over the Hill Road near Fort Ripley and a grass fire Monday night off Crow Wing County Road 45 south of Brainerd. Local fire departments also responded to the fires.
“There was a lot of stuff on ground burning, which surprised me because with the rain we’ve had I didn’t expect that much mop up,” Kobberdahl said.
For the season there have been 19 wildfires that have burned 41 acres in the DNR’s Aitkin area, which includes the Brainerd area. There have also been five outbuildings destroyed and one outbuilding damaged by wildfires. In the Backus area there have been six fires that have burned 46 acres and in the Little Falls area there have been 29 wildfires that have burned 202 acres.
The fire danger on Tuesday in northern Aitkin County, extreme northwestern Cass County and all of Crow Wing County was listed by the DNR as high. In southern Aitkin, most of Cass, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties the fire danger was listed as moderate.
Because weather conditions on Wednesday and Thursday are expected to mirror Tuesday — mostly sunny, highs in the upper 60s and lower 70s — Kobberdahl said the DNR originally expected to lift burning restrictions on Wednesday, would now be waiting until at least Thursday before it allows burning permits to be issued. Rain is possible late Thursday through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth.
A DNR airplane crew monitoring for wildfires Tuesday afternoon found a structure fire off State Highway 64 and 48th Street Southwest in Poplar Township in Cass County, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department reported.
The Pequot Lakes and Pine River fire departments responded. The DNR also responded as the swirling building fire was believed to have started a small grass fire.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the structure was a barn or a garage. The house was not affected. The burned building wasn’t occupied and no one was injured, Cass County reported.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.