Fire departments are warning Minnesotans to be careful around accumulations of cottonwood tree seeds — those fluffy white things you see floating around while out on a walk.
The trees release the cotton-like seeds after they pollinate, sometimes gathering in large quantities as the release usually lasts several weeks.
Firefighters say the seeds are highly flammable, particularly when they accumulate in piles or drifts, and can carry fire through yards, along fence lines and other areas where the wind-borne seeds settle.
Bloomington Fire Chief Ulie Seal said a home was damaged Saturday after another resident set fire to cottonwood seeds to clear them away, only to have the fire grow out of control.
"What's lost on people is how unpredictable fire is and how careful you have to be with it," Seal said.
The Coon Rapids Fire Department said it's also seen a handful of yard fires in recent days and warns people to be careful with cigarette butts and other smoking materials as the seeds continue to accumulate.