Abnormally dry conditions cause concern

Friday, August 29th, 2008 at 10:06 am

Wildfire suppression officials are concerned about potential fire danger since much of Minnesota has been unusually dry since mid-June.

The weather has significantly impacted the drying of forest fuels in the state. Though some Minnesota communities and the North Shore received significant rain in the past 24 hours, much of the state remains extremely dry, including much of the western portion of the Arrowhead Region in northeast Minnesota.

Due to the dry conditions, Lake, Cook, and St. Louis counties have burning restrictions in effect, as well as southern Beltrami, Cass and Crow Wing counties. These restrictions are for open burning and do not restrict campfires on state and private property. The Superior National Forest does have additional restrictions in effect for a portion of the BWCAW affected by the 1999 blowdown storm.

A period of warmer than normal temperatures and below normal rainfall is predicted along with increasing windy conditions through the holiday weekend and into next week.

People enjoying barbeques or campfires during the Labor Day weekend are urged to be extra careful and never leave a fire unattended.

Here are a few other reminders:

– dig a small pit away from overhanging branches, circle the pit with rocks or use a metal fire ring
– clear flammable materials from the area up to five feet from the fire
– keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby
– stack extra wood upwind and away from the fire
– make sure fire is completely out, cold to the touch, before leaving it unattended.

As of Aug. 19, the U.S. Drought Monitor rated a large portion of the Twin Cities metro area and another portion of north central Minnesota in the moderate drought category and a large portion of the rest of the state as abnormally dry. Although the rainfall received the past few days has lessened the wildfire danger in the Twin Cities metro area and along the North Shore of Lake Superior, conditions just to west and north of these areas remain quite dry.

Many areas of the state have received less than 4 inches of rain in the past 10 weeks. During a period of time that normally receives about an inch a week, that is less than 50 percent of normal for previous years.

For additional fire information visit the DNR Web site at: site at www.mndnr.gov or the Superior National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r9/superior.

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