Officials want to protect Karlstad from wildfires
- Associated Press
- August 31, 2013 - 5:45 PM
KARLSTAD, Minn. — Officials in Karlstad are hoping landowners will agree to a plan to put a firebreak in town, saying this summer's dry weather has emphasized the need to protect the town from wildfires.
Fire Chief Jeremy Folland told the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/1fqufF5 ) that the need for firebreaks became more apparent when a wildfire destroyed or damaged 11 homes in Karlstad last October.
"The need for a firebreak was talked about even before last year's fire," Folland said. "But what happened last year and this year's conditions have escalated the necessity of it."
City leaders plan to build a 20- to 50-foot-wide permanent firebreak in town. The plan needs permission of landowners, because the city doesn't plan to buy the land. The city also plans to hire farmers with discs, plows and cultivators to build the firebreak.
"The firebreak wouldn't be in fields; it would be in lowlands, with slough grass and cattails," Folland said.
Steve Murray, a retired Border Patrol employee with experience as an emergency manager, has volunteered to contact landowners to see if they will cooperate. He said he hopes to have answers in two weeks.
"I've talked to six to eight landowners and no one had told me 'no' yet," he said. "There are fewer than 20 landowners who would be affected. A benefit for many of them would be greater safety from fire for their homes."
Folland said a firebreak is no guarantee that Karlstad will be protected.
"The issue last year was that fire danger ratings were off the charts, with the combination of humidity, temperatures and winds never seen before," he said. "We don't know if fire breaks would have completely stopped it. But it would have given us an easier, quicker line to draw."
Extremely dry weather last fall and 40-mph winds sent 14-foot-high flames burning over 4,400 acres.
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