Watch CBS News

'Driest I've Ever Seen It': Officials Urge Caution During Unusually Dangerous Fire Season

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The extreme drought up north has led to the most dangerous fire season in decades.

Nearly 20% of Minnesota is classified in the extreme drought category. The conditions have helped to spark more than 1,500 wildfires since March, charring more than 34,000 acres.

WCCO went behind the fire fight as emergency crews issue a dire warning for residents and summer visitors.

From his office in Bemidji, Department of Natural Resources Forester Ben Lang offered a bleak picture of the conditions.

"I've been in Minnesota for 15 years and this is by far the driest I've ever seen it," Lang said.

Lang still puts what's known as probability emissions at 70 to 90%.

"If 100 embers hit the ground 70 to 90% of them will cause a fire," Lang said.

Bemidji has banned burning yard waste, legal fireworks, and campfires outside an established fire ring.

"All it takes is a little spark from a cigarette, or a chain dragging on the road, or if you're mowing your lawn and it strikes a rock," Lang said.

Bemidji's Deputy Fire Chief Mike Yavarow says his crews responded to two grass fires again this weekend.

"We've been seeing a definite uptick in the number of grass fires or wildland fires that we have," Mike Yavarow said.

Last year, since May 1, they fought seven such fires.

"Right now, we're up to 36 just in that short amount of window, just for wildland and grass fires," Yavarow added.

It's also structure fires taking a toll. As unusually hot temperatures up north persist.

"It's not easy having that gear on and coming outside hoping to cool off and it's 90 degrees, humidity is up in the 60s," Yavarow said.

As they look to the extended forecast it seems relief in the form of consistent rain every couple of days is nowhere in sight.

"Worst case scenario it will be when the snow flies," Lang said.

Burning restrictions are in place in the eastern portion of Roseau County and all of Beltrami, Cass, Cook, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Lake, Morrison, St. Louis, Todd and Wadena counties. Starting at midnight Tuesday, Aitkin, Becker, Benton, Carlton, Clearwater, Mahnomen and Stearns counties will be under burning restrictions as well.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.