BY STARRLA CRAY
HOWARD LAKE, MN What started as a recreational burn in rural Howard Lake April 3 quickly turned into a big swamp fire, the Howard Lake Fire Department reported.
Firefighters were called to the fire near 85th Street at about 3:05 p.m., and cleared the area about 2.5 hours later. There was no loss of property and no injuries, according to Fire Chief Daryl Drush.
“We estimate that the fire covered 20 to 25 acres,” Drush said.
Also responding to the scene were the fire departments of Waverly, Montrose, and Cokato, along with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
Drush noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) currently has a burning ban in place, and anytime there is less than 3 inches of snow cover, a permit is required for any fire that isn’t contained in a 3-foot fire pit.
Spring burning restrictions took effect March 21 for several counties, including Aitkin, Anoka, Benton, Carlton, Cass (that portion south of the Chippewa National Forest boundary), Chisago, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, and Wright.
The mild temperatures and sparse snow cover this winter have resulted in an early snow melt, fire prevention supervisor Linda Gormanson noted in a March 17 press release from the Minnesota DNR. The warmer weather and spring winds dry the dead standing grass and brush, allowing them to ignite and spread fire quickly, she said.
Spring open burning restrictions mean residents are not allowed to burn brush or yard waste. Restrictions typically begin about two weeks after the snow leaves and remain in place until summer green-up occurs. This usually lasts four to six weeks.
In Minnesota, most wildfires occur during April and May, and more than 95 percent are caused by people. The DNR places restrictions on open burning during this time to reduce the number of wildfires during the spring fire season.
These spring restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number and size of fires the DNR responds to each year.