By Bob Reif
Fire and Life Safety Specialist
It's not only obvious, it's official: As reported by MPR's Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner on Aug. 2, we've seen “Twenty-two days of 90-degree heat so far in the Twin Cities (the 30-year average is 11 days)." As of this writing, the Minnesota Wildfire Situation Update has the statewide planning level at 4 (on a scale of 1-5). Further, despite some shower activity in some central and southern Minnesota counties, 22 percent of the state currently registers in “extreme" drought on the DNR's monitors, and 75 percent of Minnesota was in the “severe" drought stage as of the end of July.
Our coughs and burning, reddened eyes have already alerted us to the fact that smoke from active fires in Ontario has been pushed south of the border into Minnesota, and there is elevated concern that embers blown from those fires may drift and ignite “spot" fires in the U.S. This, of course, is a real possibility given the tinder-dry condition of vegetation in most parts of the state.
So what does this mean for Minnesota's fire departments and the citizens they serve? It means we all need to be responsible about following any current burning restrictions; consider going beyond official restrictions that may vary by municipality, county or region; and curtail all outdoor burning until wind, temperature and moisture conditions are less favorable for the ignition and spread of fire.
It may be fall before we emerge from this situation. The projections seem to favor a months-long period of heat and drought, so we'll need to maintain our collective awareness in all parts of Minnesota. Stay informed, remain vigilant, do your part to keep yourself, your neighbors, our Northstar State fire-safe. Let cool heads prevail until cooler weather prevails.
Photo: Delta Lake Fire near
Ely, MN. Photo credit: inciweb.nwgc.gov