So long, winter | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

So long, winter

Fire danger elevated with record temps

Posted: March 14, 2012 - 10:29pm

Another day, another temperature record falls.

The temperature on Wednesday hit 64 degrees in Brainerd, besting the previous high of 61 degrees set in 1995.

It marked the second consecutive day, and third day in the past four, in which high temps eclipsed 60 degrees and set a daily high record in Brainerd. The average temperature for mid-march in Brainerd is about 37 degrees.

Temperatures are expected to continue to reach the mid-60s and low-70s into next week, causing a concern for wildfires among area fire officials.

Ron Stoffel, wildfire suppression supervisor for the Minnesota DNR, noted the only real chance for rain appears to be on Tuesday, and even that is forecast at 30 percent.

“It’s starting early and it ain’t going to go away for a while,” Stoffel said of the dry conditions. Fire danger conditions were elevated from low to moderate Wednesday in Crow Wing and surrounding counties.

Locally, grass fires were reported Tuesday near Motley and Wednesday near Aitkin. While the local fires have been small, Lynn Mizner, fire information officer with the DNR’s Aitkin field office, said conditions are ripe for more because of no snow, low relative humidity, above average temperatures, strong winds and lack of moisture in the ground.

“People are aware the fire danger is going to be high over the next few weeks,” Mizner said. “Thankfully, people are being careful and we encourage them to continue to be careful.”

Stoffel said grass fires have been springing up across the state the past couple of days with the largest — burning about 400 acres — located near Mankato.

Even with a small chance of rain in the forecast, Stoffel isn’t too optimistic that it will be enough to offset the dry conditions.

“I don’t know if it will do us much good in short term,” Stoffel said. “The rain is going to have to keep coming. If we get normal spring rain it could put the danger off for while, but I have a feeling we’ll keep going in and out of it all spring long.”

Burning restrictions go into effect for northern Minnesota on March 26. Until then Mizner and Stoffel urged people to continue to use caution while burning and check daily on fire conditions in their area.

“If something spreads out there and we get a warm day like we’ve had, it will expose all the mistakes people make, that’s for sure,” Stoffel said.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857.