Grass and wildfire season came early in the Brainerd lakes area as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fought five grass fires in the area since Saturday — including a 75-acre wild fire located about six miles east of Hackensack.
DNR program forester Mark Mortensen said Monday that fire danger in Brainerd is high and he advises people to use extreme caution with any burning in wooded or grassland areas. Mortensen said the lakes area is dry and the soil does not have moisture in it, making it easy for grass and wildfires to spread.
Mortensen said the DNR in his jurisdiction — mainly southern Cass County — responded to a grass fire Saturday just west of Brainerd along County Road 18, two miles north of Highway 210 in Sylvan Township. On Sunday there were two grass fires — one just north of Pine River along the Paul Bunyan Trail and the 75-acre fire six miles east of Hackensack. On Monday there were two grass fires, one about one to two acres burning at a location seven miles east of Backus and another located 10 miles from Motley.
Mortensen said a limited number of full-time DNR forestry personnel have been battling grass and wildfires and the DNR is using a number of emergency firefighters as well.
The Minnesota DNR Monday announced that spring burning restrictions over most of the state will go into effect Monday, March 26, which will limit open burning until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs. Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May. More than 95 percent of these fires are caused by human error, reports the DNR.
“Because of the high fire incidence during this time period, the DNR proactively initiates burning restrictions,” said DNR Fire Prevention Coordinator Larry Himanga in a news release.
The burning restrictions mean the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste. The following counties will be included in the initial burning restrictions this spring: Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Anoka, Becker, southern Beltrami (portion south of Highway 1), Benton, Carlton, Chisago, Clearwater, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Kittson, Manhomen, Marshall, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk (portion south and east of County Road 6 from the Manhomen County line to Minnesota Highway 92 east to the Clearwater County line) Pope, Ramsey, Roseau (portion west of Highway 89), Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington and Wright. More counties will be added as spring weather conditions warrant. Campfires are still allowed. Campers should watch their fire continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving the area.
The DNR reports that fire conditions may change quickly over the next few weeks. For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.