Proactive prevention: Minnesota DNR encourages homeowners to manage vegetative debris nowVegetative debris includes downed trees and branches, grass clippings and leaves.
By: Pine Journal staff, Forum Communications
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging homeowners to get rid of vegetative debris now before the spring melt when fires are most common in Minnesota. Vegetative debris includes downed trees and branches, grass clippings and leaves.
Getting rid of this debris is especially important with large woody debris piles that may occur in blowdown areas of east-central Minnesota or other storm damage areas of the state. These debris piles can pose a serious threat for spring wildfires due to ember disbursement and holdover fire potential.
Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur in April and May, but since most of the accumulated snow is gone throughout the state, spring wildfire activity has already begun.
Because of the high fire danger during the time period between snow melt and spring green-up, the DNR initiates burning restrictions during that time, said DNR Fire Precention Coordinator Larry Himanga.
Spring fire restrictions cover large areas of the state and drastically limit open burning until summer green-up occurs. Because more than 95 percent of Minnesota wildfires are caused by human error, the restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the numbers and sizes of accidental fires, Himanga said.
The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs.
If fire danger increases rapidly over the next week or so and winds dry the dead standing grass and brush in open areas, local DNR fire staff will restrict the issuing and activation of burning permits in their areas. People should check the DNR website burning restrictions page (search for burning restrictions) for the latest information. Until restrictions take effect, the DNR is urging great caution when burning debris piles. The safest way to dispose of yard waste is to recycle or compost it. Many communities have composting areas available.
When there is less than three inches of snow, state law requires people to acquire and activate a burning permit for any fires other than campfires. These permits may be restricted by local regulations. Permits are available online (search for burning permits), from local fire wardens, community/city offices or from DNR area forestry offices.
People are required to activate their permit before they burn. Local fire wardens and local Minnesota DNR Forestry offices are great sources of information on fire safety.
As always, attend to fires at all times and make sure they are out and cold to the touch before leaving. This will require stirring or spreading ember piles unless water is available. Escaped fires from debris piles endanger homes and property every year. If an escaped fire requires the DNR or a fire department to put it out, the homeowner is responsible for the costs.