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Beware the fluff: Fire officials warn not to set fire to cottonwood tree seeds

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Cottonwood seeds gather on the edge of a yard.
Cottonwood seeds gather on the edge of a yard across the street from Kenwood Park in Minneapolis June 2, 2019.
Will Lager | MPR News

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.

Cottonwood tree seeds cover the ground.
Cottonwood tree seeds cover the ground at Cedar Knoll Park in St. Louis Park Friday.
Annie Anderson | MPR News

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.

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