Campfires allowed but caution is still needed
Heavy rains in August have improved drought conditions in the area. As a result, the Department of National Resources announced last week that fire restrictions in Hubbard, Becker and Wadena counties are at Level 2, which means campfires are allowed and burn permits for pile burning are available online or from a township fire warden.
Brad Witkin is a fire program forester at the Park Rapids DNR office. He said that while campfires are permitted both at residences or when camping at area parks, caution is still needed.
“Of course it all depends on timely rain,” he said. “We’re still at a certain level of drought. Once we get some freezing temps, the grasses will dry off. And if we don’t get timely rains we’ll have fire danger conditions again.”
Witkin said people still should take precautions with their campfires and burn piles.
“It’s important to make sure it’s out when you’re done,” he said. “Stirring water in there is the best way to make sure that it’s out and there’s no more heat. Having a hose nearby and ready is always a good thing.”
He said debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Minnesota. “People need to get permits and follow the directions that come with them for safe burning,” he said. “It has to be attended. It should be in a clear area where it’s not going to spread in the grass.”
In addition to brush, leaves can also be burned with a permit at this time. “Normal burn permits are good from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. because the humidity is up at night and the winds are typically down.”
He said the past couple of weeks have been fairly quiet as far as fire calls go. “We haven’t gotten a ton of rain but the little bits we’ve gotten have helped,” he said.
According to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, the Park Rapids airport recorded 4.66 inches of rain in August and 1.44 inches through Sept. 23.
Since the beginning of the year, Park Rapids has received 13.24 inches of precipitation compared to 19.56 inches in a normal year, leaving a deficit of 6.32 inches.