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Spring has sprung — and so has wildfire season

May 10, 2018

forest fire
This 2007 wildfire in Ham Lake was sparked by an unattended campfire. The blaze destroyed 75,000 acres and hundreds of properties in the Superior National Forest.

The snow blower is finally starting to gather dust in the garage. Your down parka has resumed its place at the back of your closet. Yes, winter is finally over, as evidenced by the warm temperatures, low humidity and comfortable breezes.

And although these weather conditions are ideal for spring picnics and walks, they’re also perfect for wildfires. In fact, did you know we’ve already had several Red Flag Warnings this year? A Red Flag Warning means there are weather conditions occurring now or soon that are perfect for fires. It just takes strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures.

So it’s no wonder that we’ve already seen one devastating wildfire so far this year — the largest wildfire in Minnesota in three years, as a matter of fact. The North County Road 7 Fire started in northwestern Minnesota on a Sunday and doubled overnight to burn 4,000 acres on Monday. That was a result of the dry and windy conditions that night.

Officials haven’t determined the cause of the North County Road 7 Fire, and no one can control the weather. But there are things you can do to prevent wildfires. For example, make sure your gutters, eaves, porches and decks are free from leaves and other debris. That way, if an ember from a fire falls on your home, it will be less likely to ignite.

The same goes for your lawn—make sure it and all your plants and shrubs are well hydrated so they don’t become fuel. And keep possible fuel sources, like empty boxes and woodpiles, at least five feet from your home’s foundation and outbuildings.

If you want to have a recreational fire — say, toasting marshmallows in the backyard — check the Department of Natural Resources’ website to make sure it’s OK first. Keep an eye on the wind (choose a different day if it’s too breezy), and keep a bucket or hose ready to douse the fire in a jiffy. Keep the area around the fire pit wet so that it doesn’t get ignited by flying embers, and never, ever leave it unattended.

Lastly, if you smoke, always dispose of cigarette butts properly. More than a few massive, deadly wildfires have started because someone chose to flick a still-burning cigarette out a car window.

So go ahead: Celebrate this glorious spring weather by having a bonfire or campfire. Just remember that conditions are ideal for it to get out of hand, and take the proper precautions to prevent a hot-dog roast from turning tragic.