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Monday, March 16, 2015

Minnesota likely to see early start to fire season

With the recent warm weather, Department of Natural Resources fire behavior analysts are predicting an early start to Minnesota's spring fire season. 

Predicted temperatures this week in the 40s and 50s will likely take care of what little snowpack the state had this winter. Plus, forecasts for the next two weeks show mild temperatures and a dry weather pattern. Minnesota also had a relatively dry fall and very little snow this winter. All of this points toward abnormally dry conditions in early spring. 

In addition to predicting an early start to the spring fire season, fire behavior analysts say that based on past weather patterns and fire occurrence, Minnesota will likely have an average to above average number of fires this spring. Without the snow compaction, grass fires will move faster and be more intense. And, with dry conditions, Minnesota could face fire mop-up and peat fire issues. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting above average temperatures and average precipitation for Minnesota this spring. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of the state as abnormally dry with some areas of moderate drought.  And, predictive services at the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho says Minnesota will likely see above normal fire potential in March, April and May. 

But, even during dry periods, timely rain can lessen fire danger over the short term. Spring fires are predominantly wind-driven in fine fuels like leaves and grasses. These fine fuels respond quickly to changes in the weather. Spring fire danger will vary with the weather, so fire activity could be subdued with well-timed periodic rain.

"Because the snow is disappearing quickly, we urge people to check fire conditions and burning regulations prior to doing any open burning and to use extra caution when burning," said Tom Fasteland, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center coordinator. 

With an early start to spring, open burning restrictions are likely to be implemented earlier than normal. Residents may need to find alternatives to burning or wait until after green-up when it is safer to burn. The DNR restricts open burning shortly after snow melt when exposed dead grass and brush can light easily and burn quickly. Once spring open burning restrictions are in place the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste. The restrictions normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs. 

For more information on fire conditions and burning restrictions, visit the Minnesota DNR website, www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html

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