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Winter brush burning can spark spring wildfires

Winter is generally a good time to burn large brush and slash piles left over from logging and land clearing, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry Division. However, if not properly extinguished and monitored, burned piles can rekindle and spark wildfires in the spring.

“Winter fires are unlikely to spread as long as there is snow on the ground,” said Dan Carroll, DNR Bemidji area forester. “However, dirt, ash and snow can insulate embers and allow fires to smolder for days, weeks or even months. On a dry, windy spring day embers can be fanned into flames, escape into nearby dead grasses and quickly become a fast-moving wildfire.”

A burning permit is required if there is less three inches of snow on the ground.

The DNR estimates that in the Northwest Region alone, up to a dozen or more fires each spring can be attributed to winter burn piles that were inadequately extinguished.

To avoid “holdover” fires this spring, the DNR reminds everyone to be careful with fire.

“If you burn, be absolutely sure that your pile is completely out,” said Carroll. “Folks should use extra care with dozer piles, as they often contain large stumps and dirt that can hold fire for months.”

The DNR encourages people to be aware that if a burn pile escapes from them. They can be held responsible for wildfire suppression costs and may be subject to fines.

The DNR will restrict burning beginning at 8 a.m. on May 6 in Aitkin, Benton, Crow Wing, Douglas, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and southern Cass (that portion south of Highway 200) counties.

For more information regarding safe burning or on obtaining a burning permit, please contact your local fire department or the area DNR Forestry office.

People can check conditions/restrictions at a local DNR Forestry office or online at

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