Wildfire Prevention Week raises awareness for fire safety

Recent rain and snow throughout the state has temporarily decreased Minnesota’s wildlife danger rating, but that could quickly change without adequate rain, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

As part of Wildfire Prevention Week, April 15-21, the DNR is encouraging people to make a special effort to control their fires this week and all year long.

“Most wildfires occur in the spring, between the time when snow melts and vegetation turns green,” said Larry Himanga, DNR wildfire prevention coordinator. “This spring’s wildfire season started earlier than normal and fires have been burning with greater intensity. Severe fire conditions have put a strain on our wildland firefighters and fire departments.”

So far this year, the Minnesota DNR has recorded 533 fires that have burned 14,613 acres. Local and federal agencies also have responded to several fires in their own jurisdictions.

On average, DNR firefighters respond to more than 1,500 wildfires each year. In Minnesota, 98 percent of wildfires are caused by people, and the number one reason is escaped debris-burning fires.

Himanga encourages landowners to find alternatives to burning debris, such as chipping or composting. This is especially true for landowners affected by last July’s blowdown storms in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Landowners who wish to burn should check burning restrictions in their area. Much of Minnesota is under burning restrictions between now and green up. In those areas where burning is allowed, be sure to obtain a burning permit, be careful with debris fires and remember that piled debris can hold hot coals for several days to several months.

Visit mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html for current statewide fire danger information and burning restrictions. Burning permits can be obtained from local fire wardens, forestry offices or by visiting mndnr.gov/ forestry/fire/questions.html.

The DNR urges everyone to be safe with fire, and to have tools and water handy before lighting a fire. Always make certain fires are completely out before leaving.

As Smokey Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires!”

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