Temperatures have cooled, skies have clouded and last week’s winds have died down, but the area wildfire danger remains high.
“Other than the fact that it has cooled down it hasn’t changed much because we haven’t had any measurable rain since the first of October,” said Mark Mortensen, area DNR fire program forester.
“The last time we had significant rain was Sept. 21, when had not quite one-tenth of an inch in Brainerd,” he said. “We haven’t had anything significant or close to a quarter inch since Sept. 7.”
What the area needs, Mortensen said, is a good, extended rain to alleviate dry conditions. Light rain is fine, as long as it lasts a couple of hours to penetrate the ground cover and soak in.
A short, hard rain that comes down so fast that it just runs off surfaces won’t help dampen fire danger.
Until the area gets that needed rain, the wind, sun and low humidity can still combine to fuel fires, even with cooler temperatures and gray days.
“We still could have some serious fire conditions if we have the right conditions,” Mortensen said.
Residents are still being urged to take precautions, and limitations are in place on campfires and open burning in Crow Wing, Cass and other 41 other counties.
“We want people to be aware of what the regulations are and abide by them,” Mortensen said.
Campfires are allowed, but rules require that they be no more than three feet in diameter and height, and five feet of space around the campfire must be cleared of all combustible materials.
“Absolutely make sure that fire is dead cold before you leave,” Mortensen said, telling residents that even if they don’t see smoke or flames, they must ensure embers and ashes are cold.
Drought and windy weather have brought wildfire conditions to the point that fires start easily from sparks or windblown embers and spread extremely fast. The lakes area has escaped any large-scale fires, though there have been a couple of small fires, Mortensen said.
“Any precautions people can take to avoid even the chance of something getting started would be greatly appreciated,” he said.
The DNR and other wildfire agencies in the state have brought in additional resources and placed them on a Level 5 alert, the highest planning level.
Overhead planners and equipment operators from the Backus and Brainerd area DNR forestry offices were in the Karlstad and Baudette areas in northern Minnesota helping fight the wildfires that burned more than 40,000 acres and resulted in evacuations, lost homes and burned structures.