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Field fires ravage southwest Minnesota and Iowa

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WORTHINGTON -- Wind and fire don't mix well -- or maybe they mix too well -- and that was the case Thursday throughout the region.

Winds gusting into the 30 mph-plus range and farmers harvesting the dry fields sparked grass and field fires in multiple locations. Fire departments in many area communities were dispatched at one point or another during the blustery day.

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In Osceola County, Iowa, fires in two fields and one pile of trees had been reported by mid-afternoon and a total of six fires were reported Thursday. Farther north in Murray County, a dispatcher counted seven fire calls by 2:45 p.m.. In Nobles County, crews had been dispatched to at least three rural locales.

As of 3 p.m., the Worthington Fire Department had yet to be dispatched, and Fire Chief Rick von Holdt was keeping his fingers crossed that status would stay unchanged. The Worthington department's coverage area only extends for a few miles circumference around the city and so far those rural areas had been fire-free. But he had sympathy for his brethren from neighboring departments who were battling blazes in the gusty conditions.

"It's just so dry out there," and harvesting machinery throws off heat and sparks that can quickly ignite the readily available combustibles, von Holdt said.

But the mighty wind -- and subsequent fire danger -- won't keep farmers from the task at hand.

"There's not much for words of wisdom," said von Holdt. "Just proceed with caution and make sure you have a couple of fire extinguishers with you."

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