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Minnesota burn bans lifted; Iowa bans still intact

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening lifted the burn ban in his county Monday morning after noting that the other counties around him had already done so, he said.

"People still have to have permits, and we're asking them to use extreme caution," he said.

Temperatures are cooler now than they were at the end of September and in the first week of October, when many counties banned open burning due to heat, dryness and heavy winds.

Field fires, mostly caused by farm equipment, kept many area fire departments busy for days.

In northwest Iowa, O'Brien County Sheriff Michael Anderson even requested farmers stay out of the fields for one evening to give the firefighters a chance to catch up.

In Iowa, he explained, local fire chiefs consult with emergency management and ask that the fire marshal prohibit open burning.

The ban then stays in place until the marshal is asked to lift it.

Anderson said Monday that there had not been discussion about lifting the ban.

"We had a little rain last week, but not enough," he said. "It's just not justifiable to take it off."

Dickinson, Osceola and O'Brien counties are still under the ban, which means no burning at all, unless by special permit.

Southwest Minnesota counties, however, have lifted the ban against open fire, according to the Minnesota Fire Marshal website. Wilkening was the last one to do so, he said.

Murray County lifted its ban last week after rain fell in the area.

Right around the time those Minnesota counties were contemplating lifting the bans, the annual Fire in Minnesota report was released for 2010.

According to Minnesota Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl, there were 39 fire deaths in Minnesota in 2010, a slight increase from 2009's record low of 35 deaths.

Data was collected from 767 of Minnesota's 789 fire departments -- the second year in a row of 97 percent reporting, the report claims. According to the Minnesota Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS), a fire was reported every 36 minutes in 2010, as compared to every 34 minutes in 2009.

One arson fire took place every seven hours in 2009, and every eight hours in 2010.

Cooking, open flame and heating were the top three causes of fires, with arson running a close fourth and cooking far in the lead at 49 percent.

In southwest Minnesota, one death was attributed to fire in 2010, and was the result of a rollover crash.

According to the report, more than 1,500 Minnesota civilians have died in fires in the past 27 years, with the fire death rate in Greater Minnesota almost twice that of the metro area in the past several years until 2010, when the rate was higher in the Twin Cities. In those 27 years, there have been nine deaths attributed to fire in Pipestone County, three in Rock County, five in Nobles County, one on Murray County, six in Cottonwood County and eight in Jackson County.

As Minnesota's population has grown from 3.8 million in 1970 to 5.3 million in 2010, fire deaths have decreased from an estimated 960 in the 1970s to 465 in the 2000s.

The Minnesota Fire Services reported no firefighter deaths in 2010 -- one of 19 states that claimed no line-of-duty deaths that year.

Civilian burn injuries, also reported through MFIRS, totalled 1,324 in 2010 -- with six injuries attributed to fire in Pipestone County, two in Rock County, four in Nobles County, five on Murray County, one in Cottonwood County and four in Jackson County. Of those injured in the state, sixty percent were male, and 29 percent were attempting to control or extinguish the fire themselves when they were hurt. In 2010, 456 Minnesota firefighters were injured while responding to, involved in or returning from emergency situations, a slight decrease from 2009. Of the 456 injuries, 58 percent were fire-related, and 69 percent of those injuries occurred while fighting residential structure fires.