High winds and warm temperatures fueled fires Monday throughout Minnesota.
Area firefighters battled 10 fires in Crow Wing, Morrison and Cass counties, said Mark Mortensen, DNR fire program forester. The Aitkin Fire Department fought a large grass fire near Deerwood. A fire near South Long Lake scorched the siding and stairs on a house. Other fires burned 910 acres near Little Falls and a pine plantation near Clark Lake.
"The wind really increased the rate of spread," Mortensen said. "Without heavy, wet snows this winter the grass is standing straight and tall rather than packed down, which contributes to the spread. Leaves in the woods are not matted down either."
Most fires Monday were started by coals and ashes from debris piles that were burned over the weekend and not totally extinguished, Mortensen said. Statewide, 50 fires burned 1,700 acres over the weekend and Monday.
The DNR is preparing to staff the air tanker base at the Brainerd airport, but as of this morning it had not received confirmation that a tanker would be available, Mortensen said.
"We may bring in a helicopter with the next couple of days because there are places with open water where they can dip in a bucket," Mortensen said.
Burning restrictions begin Tuesday in the following counties: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Carlton, Cass, Carver, Chisago, Clearwater, Cook, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Grant, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, St. Louis, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington and Wright. Fire restrictions will be lifted when vegetation greens up and safe burning conditions prevail.
Historically, 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May, said Olin Phillips, the DNR's fire protection manager. Since most spring fires start and spread from burning debris piles the DNR asks people to use other methods of disposal, such as recycling, composting or chipping. Burning permits can be obtained for prescribed fire projects, approved agricultural practices or construction projects.
Favorable conditions for wildfires are expected to diminish by the end of the week when temperatures drop and rain is expected. "Until then it could be an interesting couple of days," Mortensen said.
(This story contains information compiled by The Associated Press.)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.