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Editorial: Sparking up a conversation about outdoor fire danger

This week, April 20-26, is Wildfire Prevention Week in Minnesota.

It’s a good time of the year to remind people of the dangers of wildfires, and to spread information about how to prevent them.

As the weather warms and snow melts, revealing dead, dry grasses underneath, the fire danger rises.

Every spring, wildland firefighters and rural fire department volunteers spend countless hours battling wildfires that could have been easily prevented.

“Spring is always a risky time for wildfires in Minnesota,” Larry Himanga, DNR wildfire prevention coordinator, stated in a press release. “Right now the fire danger in southern and central Minnesota is high, which means fires can easily start and quickly spread. Therefore, burning permits are not being issued in most of these areas.”

In Otter Tail County, as of April 21, the fire danger rating was “Very High,” meaning fires can start very easily and will spread at a very fast rate. As such, no burning permits were being allowed.

A major cause of wildfires is burning yard waste. The DNR recommends composting or mulching instead. If burning is necessary, landowners should check their current fire burning restrictions, get a burning permit, and be careful with their debris fires. It’s important to remember that small-piled debris can hold hot coals for several days, while larger piles can hold them for months.

In the past 18 months, wildfires burned 21 homes and three commercial buildings and threatened more than 500 other structures, according to the DNR. These fires were caused by people misjudging the weather and danger of fires escaping their control.

The issue is a concern in the immediate Perham area, where the fire department responded to a record number of calls (163) last year, continuing a pattern of increasing calls over the past few years. While not all those calls were related to wildfires, grass fires and other outdoor fires are a problem here as much as anywhere else – especially when conditions are dry and the winds are high.

So, before you burn that waste, please double-check the current fire danger rating for this area, and see if any burning restrictions are in place. That information can be found online at:

For more information about Wildfire Prevention Week, visit wildfire/prevention/index.html.