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No Joke: Floods Straight to Wildfire Season

April 1, 2010

March played the lamb through much of Minnesota this year.  The rivers came up, but Mother Nature held back and didn’t pile on the snow and spring rain this year.  While the lack of precipitation helped the flood fighting efforts, we have a somewhat odd situation now.

Flood Warnings and Severe Wildfire Danger at the Same Time.

GUSTY WINDS AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...ALONG WITH
EXTREMELY DRY GRASSES...WILL ALLOW FOR THE POTENTIAL FOR
RAPID SPREAD OF WILD FIRE. PLEASE HANDLE ALL OPEN FIRES
WITH CAUTION.

Figuratively speaking, we’re out of the frying pan into the fire.

DNR Wildfire Danger

MN DNR works with local authorities to mitigate and respond to the threat of wildfire.

Wildfire occurs when an uncontrolled fire spreads through vegetation, posing danger and destruction of property.  They often begin unnoticed, spread quickly, and can be highly unpredictable.  While more typical in rugged Northern or Western forested areas, prairie fires were a natural part of the environment across the Great Plains prior to settlement.  The State hazard mitigation plan categorizes wildfires into three types:

  • Wildland fires in grasslands, brush and forests;
  • Interface fires where natural landscapes meet urbanized areas
  • Prescribed burns, intentionally set or natural fires that are allowed to burn for beneficial purposes

Factors such as topography, fuel and weather affect wildfire behavior.  Fire intensity tends to increase during daytime heating.  Large parcels of land left fallow in conservation and natural areas may be susceptible to grass fire even when properly managed.  Gusty winds and low relative humidity create conditions for wildfire to spread rapidly in dry grasses and crops.  Farm fields with row crops, ditches, and rights-of-way along railroad tracks are also vulnerable, in particular to the errant spark or carelessly discarded cigarette.  Prolonged periods of high temperatures and/or high winds increase the risk of wildfires.
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Mitigation

So what can you do to mitigate the hazard posed by wildfire?  DNR staff across the state is willing to work with local fire departments to train on wildland fire fighting.  Just contact your local DNR office.

Management plans for conservation lands and natural areas should include firebreaks upwind of adjacent parcels with structures, to reduce the risk of wildfire spreading.   Prescribed burns in the right locations (and in the right weather conditions) also reduce fuel load, while also benefiting native prairie restoration.

Otherwise, be careful out there.  To paraphrase good old Smokey Bear more inclusive of our Great Plains:  “Only YOU can prevent Wildfires.”

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p.s. I know the video is from Arizona, not Minnesota, but I thought it was well done.  And many Minnesotans do spend the winter in Arizona.

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  1. 2010 in review « All-Hazard Mitigation

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