Snow drought increases risk of winter fires

The lack of snow in most parts of Minnesota is creating unusually dangerous wildfire conditions. A fire Monday in Polk County burned 750 acres of forest and grassland, whipped up by high winds.

Normally at this time of year there's enough snow on the ground to keep fires from burning, according to Jean Goad from the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center.

"But right now because there's no snow, a lot of the grasses and brush that are out there have been freeze-dried, so they're very dry, and fires can burn quickly," she said.

Goad adds that wintertime firefighting presents extra hazards.

"Fighting fires in the cold is difficult: there is a danger of frostbite to firefighters, and the pumps sometimes freeze up," she said.

Currently the DNR requires people wanting to burn brush to get burning permits, which are available from local fire wardens and on the DNR's website.

The only place in the state where a permit is not necessary is Cook County, which has three inches of snow on the ground.

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