'Red flag' fire alert issued for southwest Minnesota

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2014 - 9:27 PM

Dry conditions with high winds pose a wildfire hazard, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service on Thursday issued a “red-flag” warning for most of southwest and south-central Minnesota after a mix of high winds and dry conditions spawned a risk of fast-moving wildfires.

Much of the state, including the seven-county Twin Cities area, is also at a “high” or “very high” risk of fires, prompting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to ban burning permits until conditions change.

The red flag warning reflects northwest winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour with low humidity of 20 percent and temperatures near 60 degrees, leaving dry vegetation just emerging from snow cover vulnerable to being set ablaze. The warning area extends from Morris in west-central Minnesota on a line southeast to Albert Lea, near the Iowa border.

The Weather Service warns that fires could become fast moving because of the driving winds, with highest risk coming in midafternoons.

The DNR, meanwhile, also is keeping an eye on fire conditions.

A large part of southwestern and east-central Minnesota, including Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Anoka counties, are under a burning-permit ban. The Arrowhead region and the northern tier of counties still have significant snow cover, so no burning permit is required for now.

The southern third of the state is at a “very high” fire risk, according to the DNR. That means fires start very easily and spread quickly, making them hard to bring under control.

The east-central part of the state, including those four metro counties and extending to the St. Cloud area, is at a “high” risk.

Much of that same area is also abnormally dry or in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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