Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Field fires aplenty in Minnesota’s Red Flag areas October 6, 2011

A farm site between Morgan and Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota, where field conditions are dry and the fire danger high.

DRY, WINDY CONDITIONS persist in much of Minnesota creating ideal conditions for fire.

Unless you’ve had your head buried inside, you understand the danger and the reason for the National Weather Service’s Red Flag Warning that covers central and southern Minnesota.

Today would not be the day to build a campfire, have a bonfire or toss a cigarette butt out the car window (like you should any day). Burning bans are in effect throughout the state.

If forecasters are correct, these weather conditions will continue for awhile.

That all said, I wondered if my nephew, a kindergarten teacher and Westbrook volunteer firefighter, has been battling any blazes in his region of southwestern Minnesota.

Adam checked in with me early this morning:

Fires—we have had quite a few around here. Westbrook has had two; Dovray, two; and Walnut Grove, for sure three, all in the past week. It’s very dry and with the wind, it doesn’t take much to create a big fire. Many of the calls are mutual aid—helping neighboring towns with fires, but that’s how we do things here. All of them have been combines and fields. I haven’t made it to many of them as I could not get out of school at the time. But I made it to one on Sunday.

A story in today’s The Cottonwood County Citizen about a county-wide burning ban confirms Adam’s summary:

These burning bans come in the wake of at least a half-dozen fires that occurred around the county, most of which involved the harvest. Extremely dry conditions, low humidity and high winds have increased the potential for major fires.

I found an article in last Thursday’s Jackson County Pilot headlined “Combine fire sparks massive field blaze.” The story went on to say that a combine fire, fueled by 40 mph winds, quickly spread into a field. Fire crews from numerous departments in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa were called to the scene.

The Faribault Daily News today reports a Monday afternoon fire in the Lonsdale-Montgomery area that burned five acres of hay, 30 acres of swamp and 30 – 50 acres of corn.

Another blaze, this one on Wednesday afternoon in a soybean field northwest of Luverne, is reported in The Rock County Star Herald. In that case, farmers disked strips of black dirt to help contain the fire.

It’s a dangerous situation out there right now, especially for farmers bringing in the harvest in those dry, dry fields.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE to report on fires in your area, submit a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling