April 2, 2007

Delano Fire Department spends evening at scene of large grass fire

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

A week after Delano firefighters helped the Rockford Fire Department battle a 75-acre grass fire, restrictions have been issued by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on burning.

Authorities believe the fire last Monday started from a spark created by a Canadian Pacific freight train running along Lake Sarah, just south of Highway 55, reported KSTP TV.

Six other fire departments assisted Rockford with the blaze, which closed Highway 55 for a bit.

About 12 firefighters from Delano responded when the call came in at 5:33 p.m., said Delano Fire Chief Bob Van Lith. They returned to Delano about 9 p.m. that evening.

“We provided manpower, and helped get the fire under control,” Van Lith said.

The Delano Fire Department also responded to a smaller grass fire the next day off Wright County Road 30, near the Delano Elementary School, that burned about an acre, Van Lith said.

Restrictions set by DNR on burning include Wright Co.

Spring open burning restrictions in most of the northern two-thirds of Minnesota, including Delano and Wright County, will go into effect at 8 a.m. Monday, April 2, according to the DNR.

The purpose of the fire restrictions is to reduce personal property damage resulting from wildfires caused by debris burning.

The counties affected by the fire restrictions are all counties from northern Minnesota south to Ramsey, Hennepin, and Washington counties.

As temperatures continue to warm and vegetation dries out, fire agencies are expecting an increase in fire activity.

Data indicates most spring wildfires originate from the burning of yard debris, according to Olin Phillips, DNR fire protection manager.

Historically, 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May. Since the inception of annual permit restrictions, the number of spring wildland fires has been reduced.

“The DNR is asking residents to use alternative methods of debris disposal, such as recycling, composting, or chipping,” Phillips said.

Once the restrictions are in place, they will continue for four to six weeks, or until vegetation greens up enough to significantly lower the fire danger.

This is a restriction on the issuing of debris burning permits. Forestry personnel may still give some variances for specific activities.

“Each variance application is reviewed separately,” Phillips said. “These permits are only granted for situations such as prescribed fires conducted by trained fire personnel, burning for approved agricultural practices, and construction or economic hardship burning for which there is no feasible alternative.”

More counties will be added to the restricted area as snow cover disappears and potential for wildfire increases in areas north of the metro.

Additional information is available on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire.

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