With low humidity and gusty winds blowing in unseasonably warm air, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning across much of the lakes region.
The warning area includes the parts of central Minnesota and regional cities of Wadena, Staples, Little Falls and Aitkin.
The red flag warning indicates conditions — dry vegetation, low humidity, warm temperatures and gusty winds — are combining to create an extreme fire danger.
With these conditions a fire could grow quickly and with gusty winds could become fast moving, the weather service reported. The warning is in effect until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Brainerd was not part of the red flag warning, but dry conditions prompted the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue burning restrictions across the region, in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Mille Lacs, Todd and Wadena counties. No burning permits are allowed, but campfires are allowed if not more than 3 feet in diameter or 3 feet high.
“It’s certainly dry,” said Curt Westerman, DNR assistant area forester in Backus, noting just because Brainerd isn’t in the precise red flag warning area, “it’s still a real concern.”
Brainerd and all of Crow Wing County remained in a critical fire conditions with a high fire danger, the weather service reported. Most of Cass and Aitkin counties were included in the high fire danger and the southeastern corner of Aitkin County listed as very high. Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties were in the extreme fire danger category, along with the western, central and southern parts of the state, and were all covered in the red flag warning. On Monday, the entire state was either in high, very high or extreme fire danger.
Red flag warning conditions note fire danger is high or extreme with sustained winds of 15 mph or greater, relative humidity of 25 percent or less and temperatures exceeding 75 degrees.
In central Minnesota Monday, the relative humidity was as low as 20 percent. Brainerd was a bit higher at 31 percent with winds gusting at 25 mph and a high of 80 degrees, about 10 degrees above normal.
Winds were expected to diminish between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and not be as strong Tuesday, although the high temperature may be warmer at 85 degrees.
The weather service updated its forecast to include a slight chance — at 20 percent — of thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday. The rest of the week, temperatures are forecast to be about 70 degrees, warming to as high as 75 degrees on the weekend.