FARGO - The right conditions are in place for a fire to go wrong, and fast.
High winds up to 35 mph, low humidity, warm temperatures and brown, dry vegetation have put most of North Dakota and Minnesota at an elevated risk of grass fires and wildfires this weekend and into next week.
Folks should proceed with caution if planning to do a controlled burn or having a backyard fire, said Jim Prochniak, Cass County's emergency manager.
"That wind can take those sparks," Prochniak said. "Exercise some better judgement, and be careful."
Essentially all of North Dakota has a high or very high fire danger rating, according to the state Game and Fish Department. Grand Forks, Stark, Williams, Burleigh and Hettinger counties have burn bans in place and failure to comply could result in a Class B misdemeanor and $1,500 fine.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has burning restrictions in place for the entire state except the Twin Cities area where campfires are allowed.
The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for the Red River Valley, west central and northwestern Minnesota and further west in North Dakota where there are fire weather watches and red flag warnings. These alerts typically are issued a few days ahead when officials think the conditions might be possible for a fire to spread quickly.
The Minnesota lakes region has a moderate fire danger, according to the DNR, and counties further north up to the Canadian border have very high fire danger conditions.
North Dakota's peak fire season is from April to late May, and Minnesota's fire season occurs in mid-summer.
West Fargo Fire Chief Dan Fuller said fires will grow rapidly this time of year until it greens up. Though Fuller's crew doesn't typically deal with too many grass fires, he said they got their grass fire trucks up and running last week.
Officials said to avoid wildfires, people should follow county burn bans and ensure a fire is fully extinguished before leaving it unattended, and they should not throw cigarettes or other lit products on the ground.