Recreational fires have been banned in Brainerd and Baxter until further notice.
Brainerd Fire Chief Fred Underhill on Monday said that because of dry conditions, all fires - except for small cooking fires, such as with barbecue grills - will not be allowed outdoors in the two cities.
That includes small campfires, which normally are allowed in Brainerd, and the burning of leaves or brush, which is normally allowed in Baxter.
"It's just too dry," Underhill said. "We hate to do it, but it's so dry and so windy that even now a small fire could end up in a neighbor's yard."
Underhill said the decision was based on an order issued Monday by the DNR commissioner in St. Paul. He said he also discussed the matter with Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted, and Exsted will discuss the ban with the Baxter City Council on Tuesday.
The fire danger throughout the Brainerd area Monday was listed as high to very high. Because of dry conditions, the Brainerd Fire Department and the DNR have banned all outdoor recreational fires except for small cooking fires. Brainerd Dispatch/Matt Erickson » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The fire danger in the Brainerd area Monday was listed at high to very high, with temperatures reaching 89 degrees and wind gusts up to 30 mph, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported.
The DNR's order states that anything larger than an outdoor cooking fire would not be allowed in the north-central part of the state. Cooking fires are only allowed if they are associated with a residence, dwelling or campground.
"It was very windy (Monday) and it doesn't look like we're going to gain any serious moisture for the next couple of days," said Mark Mortensen, Brainerd DNR program forester.
Underhill said the fire ban in Brainerd would be lifted after Brainerd and Baxter receive significant moisture, and when the DNR lifts its order.
Mortensen said the Brainerd DNR, which covers Crow Wing County and southern Cass County, is fully staffed at all locations in case of wildfires. Though no fires were reported Monday, he said there is a concern of dry thunderstorms - those that produce lightning but little to no rain. DNR detection planes are monitoring possible thunderstorms, Mortensen said.
In addition to the DNR's order, burning restrictions remain in place for the Brainerd area. The DNR only allows burning with a permit on a case-by-case basis because of need or hardship. As of Monday, the DNR was issuing no permits, Mortensen said.
Conditions could improve into the week. The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for high temperatures of 63-68 degrees on Tuesday, 58-63 degrees on Wednesday, 68-73 degrees on Thursday and 72-77 degrees on Friday. Winds also are expected to decrease from 15-25 mph on Tuesday to 10-20 mph on Wednesday.
However, significant rain is not in the forecast, with only a 20 percent chance through Sunday.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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