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DNR: Fire danger hits record high; public assistance needed

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) needs the help and cooperation of the general public statewide to help prevent and minimize fire danger, which is at a seasonal all-time high in much of Minnesota since automated local records have been kept.

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"We have a unique and dangerous combination of fires that are not yet well contained up north, and a serious fire risk in the south that will continue to challenge local emergency response resources if additional fires should start," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

The two large fires and several smaller ones centered in the Karlstad and Baudette areas have consumed more than 40,000 acres so far, resulting in evacuations, lost homes and burned structures. Fortunately, there are no known injuries at this time. The extremely high winds on Tuesday intensified widespread drought conditions, dry vegetation and persistent low humidity, which even grounded some aerial firefighting resources.

Under such conditions, Landwehr urges all Minnesotans to take certain precautions that include:

• Exercise caution in all agricultural operations and avoid operations in fields and roadsides until fire danger improves - particularly the mowing of dry fields and lawns. Sparks from mowers can easily ignite dry grass. Monitor weather conditions and conduct fall operations during periods of higher humidity and low winds.

• Avoid target shooting, particularly the use of the popular new "exploding targets." Firing guns and hitting exploding targets present a high risk for wildfires.

• If possible, do not run motor vehicles or other heavy equipment in dry fields. The heat of the engine and exhaust system can cause fires especially in tall grass.

• Follow all burning restrictions. Campfires and other open burning are prohibited in several areas of the state. Check the DNR website for current information.

• Carry a fire extinguisher when operating machinery in dry areas.

• Have a family and business emergency response plan ready in case fire threatens an area near you.

• Immediately call 911 if a fire is ignited and move to a safe location. Attempting to extinguish fires under our current conditions can be extremely hazardous without proper personal protection.

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