Burn bans in effect for many counties
WORTHINGTON -- With a long dry spell and high winds expected for several days, many of the counties in the area are under a burning ban until conditions improve.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Monday morning, the fire danger in the area was rated as high. As of Monday afternoon, fire conditions had entered a red flag alert status for today and Wednesday.
"An extended period of warm and dry weather will continue much of the upcoming week... strong south winds and low humidity will create an enhanced fire danger through midweek," a NWS warning states. "The most dangerous combination of weather conditions appears to be Wednesday, with winds gusting at times over 35 mph."
The worst of the conditions, the warning states, can be expected Wednesday afternoon.
In O'Brien County, Iowa, a ban went into effect Friday and continues due to a proclamation from Iowa State Fire Marshal Raymond Reynolds.
"Upon investigation, the fire marshal finds that conditions in O'Brien County are such that open burning constitutes a danger to life or property," the proclamation states.
O'Brien County Sheriff Michael Anderson said there were 12 fires in his county on Thursday, most from fuel or combines.
A home, a truck and several fields burned, and at one point, most of the fire departments in the county were out fighting fires or providing mutual aid. At that point, Anderson made a request over the local radio.
"I asked farmers to cease operation for the day, just because our departments were already out," he said.
He made that request in the early afternoon, hoping firefighters could catch a break.
"I can't really stop anyone from combining, but was hoping the farmers, knowing others had lost fields, would be willing to help," Anderson said.
The wind was really whipping along that day, he said, which can blow chaff into the mechanics of a combine and cause it to ignite.
While the wind was rather gusty in Minnesota Monday, Anderson said it was relatively calm in O'Brien County.
Farmers, he added, were trying to stay cautious.
That ban will stay in effect until the local fire chiefs consult with emergency management and ask the fire marshal to lift the prohibition of open burning.
In Iowa, a burn ban means no burning, period, Anderson said, unless it's by special permit. That means a ban on recreational fires, also.
In Minnesota, however, recreational fires are allowed during most burn bans.
An open fire, according to Murray County Sheriff Steve Telkamp, means a fire burning in matter, whether concentrated or dispersed, which is not within a fully enclosed firebox, structure or vehicle. A recreational fire, as defined by state statute, is a fire set for cooking, warming or ceremonial purposes, not more than three feet in diameter or three feet high, and has the ground five feet from the base cleared of all combustible materials.
In Minnesota, a burn ban went into effect Thursday in Pipestone County and Friday in Murray County due to the increased number of fire calls. In Cottonwood County, an unofficial ban went into effect Friday, but on Monday the DNR put the county under an official ban. Telkamp said no new burn permits will be issued during the ban, and all current permits are suspended until the ban is lifted.
Rock County was not under a burn ban as of 2 p.m. Monday. In Jackson County, Sheriff Roger Hawkinson put a burn ban into effect at about 3 p.m. after consulting with fire chiefs in his area and noting the DNR warning.
"Everyone I talked to opted to put (the ban) on," he stated.
In Nobles County, Sheriff Kent Wilkening reported shortly after 5 p.m. that a burning ban was granted by the DNR. The ban means no Nobles County resident will be issued a burn permit until further notice, and there shall be no open burning allowed in the county.
"The DNR said pretty much everyone in the southern half of Minnesota is under some sort of burn restriction," Wilkening said.
In northwest Iowa, Dickinson, Lyon and Osceola Counties were not under a ban as of 2 p.m. Monday, although a representative from Dickinson County people are being advised not to burn.
According to the NWT, the next "appreciable chance for precipitation" is not until Friday night.