Spring brings fire prevention awareness around Minnesota

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Spring officially began last Friday, March 20, and with it arrives a rise in temperatures outside. The warmer weather brings concerns with fire safety and precautions in Minnesota.

Increased temperatures lead to drier conditions, which tends to involve an increase of fires in the region. The St. Cloud Fire Department just released a rule temporarily not allowing any agricultural burning within the city limits.

“Recreational fires are still being allowed,” said Assistant Fire Chief Phil Schaefer. “It started raining this week which is nice because it gets things greening up a little. Everything is brown now; everything is ready to burn. So just be cautious with all of your smoking materials and recreational fires.”

Schaefer said fires increase around April.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that the overall dry winter in Minnesota is creating worry amongst state wildfire fighters. Although the state could be receiving a few more inches of snow, it will do little to make up for the lack in snowfall totals.

With the northern half of the state still 20 to 25 inches behind average totals in snowfalls, more worry is added for the risk of fires. The NFPA reported that the season was one of the driest winters the state has had in 50 years.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho) introduced a bipartisan bill in the beginning of the year that would overhaul federal wildfire policy by increasing funds for fire prevention. This would aid in treating large wildfires and natural disasters.

This Wildfire Disaster Fund Act would allow the U.S. Forest Service to be able to access the previous disaster fund through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thus allowing an overall better response to wildfires.

In the meantime, in order to rebuttle the conditions there are advisory tips that help with fire prevention.

If smoking, be sure to grind out cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco into dirt, not into stumps or other flammable surfaces. Use caution if smoking while walking or driving, so that the ashes do not fall onto unsafe surfaces.

Having a 30-foot fire-resistant space is recommended around buildings so that a potential fire could not spread as easily.

Other precautions involve being careful with ash from wood stoves and fireplaces along with disposal of the ash outside. Make sure that the fire is out cold before starting ash removal.

As far as vehicle safety, chains and metal parts of cars can throw sparks. Checking tire pressure is also important, because exposed wheel rims also cause sparks that can catch fire if driving or parking on dry grass.

St. Cloud Fire Department Captain Chris Mueller said, “once it starts greening up it won’t be as big of an issue, obviously we still have some problems with it, but not like it is now. It’s very dry out there.”

Wildfire awareness week is beginning in the Southwest from March 29 to April 4, as conditions are more severe at this time of the year. In the nation, however, fire prevention week will run from Oct.  4 to 10.