BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Drought conditions across Minnesota have created the potential for an active and damaging spring wildfire season. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges woodland landowners and homeowners to help prevent wildfires by using burn-free options for spring brush and yard cleanup.

One of the drier areas of the state is the northwest. Ben Lang, DNR Forestry assistant supervisor in Bemidji, said in a release that the best way for residents to prevent wildfire this spring is to use alternative methods to open burning.

“Open burning of debris is the number one cause of wildfires,” Lang said. “That’s why composting, chipping or taking brush to a collection site are the preferred alternatives for brush and yard clean-up year-round and even more so in the current dry conditions.”

Below-average snowfall this winter came on the heels of an abnormally dry fall in 2020. What little snow there is will quickly melt away, revealing very dry grasses – fuel favorable for wildfire ignition and spread.

Lang said it shocks residents every year to learn that 75% of Minnesota wildfires occur in the months of March, April and May.

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“A spark doesn’t care what month it is,” Lang said. “One spark on dry vegetation can quickly become a wildfire.”

Annual spring burning restrictions will soon go into effect. These seasonal and temporary constraints curb the open burning of brush and vegetation. The timing and length of restrictions depends on the weather and how fast things “green up” in the spring. Residents can get daily updates on burning restrictions and current fire risk at the DNR website.

DNR reminds residents that burning permits are not required if there are three or more inches of continuous snow cover. Burning permits are available online. Those interested in obtaining a burning permit from their local Township Fire Warden can call their local DNR Forestry Office for information on active wardens in their area.