The devastation caused by Friday's ravaging wildfire just south of Brainerd was a grim reminder of how dangerous the combination of warm temperatures, wind and timber can be.
The fire destroyed two homes, an abandoned school and forced the evacuation of about 100 people from their homes. Even a long-distance look at the fiery ball of smoke and flame in the Barrows community Friday afternoon left no doubt that the beautiful trees of the Brainerd area can also act as a dangerous fuel in an uncontrolled fire. Make no mistake about it: The toll of Friday's fire, in property damage and lives, could have been markedly worse.
The immediate and efficient response to the fire prevented the blaze from causing much more destruction than it did. Assistance in fighting the fire came from far and wide. It included firefighters and emergency personnel from Brainerd and neighboring cities, the DNR, ambulance personnel, the National Guard, private contractors and law officers.
More than 100 hours of flight time were logged as the blaze was fought. Bulldozer operators moved dirt and helped create fire breaks.
The Brainerd area's thanks go out to all of those who helped battle the blaze. Their willingness to risk their own lives to save the lives and the property of others is laudable.
Friday's fire also serves as an important reminder that property owners, particularly those in heavily wooded areas, can do a lot to make the firefighters job easier.
The Brainerd Fire Department and the DNR are initiating a program called Firewise in which area residents are advised to create a buffer zone around their home, thin out clusters of trees that are close to structures and provide better access to their property for emergency vehicles.
As the population of the Brainerd and Baxter areas grows and new homes are situated in more remote and rural locations the challenge for firefighters will increase. Good planning on the part of homeowners and continued coordination among emergency personnel will go a long way to protecting lives and property.
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