Dry conditions pose fire threatIt’s been more than 20 days since a measurable raindrop has hit the ground in Red Wing, according to data collected at U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3. In fact, less than a half an inch of rain fell during the entire month of September. Now the dry conditions have local fire crews on alert.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
It’s been more than 20 days since a measurable raindrop has hit the ground in Red Wing, according to data collected at U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3. In fact, less than a half an inch of rain fell during the entire month of September. Now the dry conditions have local fire crews on alert.
“It’s super dry out there,” said Goodhue Fire Chief Mike Kehran.
The Goodhue volunteer fire department has been called to three wild land fires in just over a week, Kehran said. He added that the trio of fires is a high number for so early in the season.
The latest fire happened Wednesday afternoon, when the Goodhue fire crews were called at about 2:30 p.m. to the Lehrbach area just off the southeastern corner of Red Wing.
Crews were on scene for about 1.5 hours, Kehran said, and the fire burned about 15 acres.
“It was mostly grass and corn stubble,” Kehran said. “Really no value that got lost.”
Because the fire was near the Red Wing High School, Supt. Karsten Anderson sent an email to school Board members alerting them of the situation, but said there was no danger to students or school facilities.
“Apparently the fire was moving away from the (athletic practice) field,” Anderson said. “We were aware of the situation and took all necessary precautions to make sure our kids were safe during the incident.”
Goodhue Fire Department responded to two other fires earlier in the week, Kehran said. Neither caused significant damage.
In contrast, the Red Wing Fire Department has only fought two grass fires since Sept. 1, said Chief Tom Schneider.
“We have been very fortunate,” he said.
However, Schneider added that “tinder dry” conditions mean crews are being extra watchful.
“Largely, we’re in a state of preparedness,” he said. “We would pay closer attention to wind speed and direction as we’re coming in to work and going about our day.”
Other areas in Minnesota haven’t been so lucky. In the northwestern town of Karlstad, grass fires destroyed 10 occupied houses and one unoccupied house as well as about two dozen outbuildings.
Still, Karlstad Fire Chief Jeremy Folland said the fires could have caused much more destruction than they did.
“There’s a sense of relief and a sense that we’re fortunate that we were able to protect what we did,” he said. “This fire could have easily wiped out 50 homes.”
A cold front Wednesday and Thursday brought storms and inches of snow — what Folland called “a blanket of security” — and helped fire crews extinguish the last of the hotspots.
But for Red Wing, snow — or even rain — doesn’t look likely until late next week.
The overall dry conditions prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin to issue a burning ban for the entire county earlier this week. Red Wing Fire Marshal Andy Speltz also issued a ban on all recreational fires in Red Wing.
Schneider said until the ban is lifted, everyone needs to be extremely careful with outdoor cooking, smoking materials or anything that could ignite.
“A little spark or a little something can start a big fire right now,” he said.
The Grand Forks Herald, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper, contributed to this report.