If you have a pile of brush that needs burning, hold that thought. Spring burning restrictions for southern and central Minnesota take effect Friday after a warm, dry winter.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will start burning restrictions in other parts of the state next week.
The DNR doesn't give out burning permits during spring restrictions. Debris burning is especially dangerous in April and May when most wildfires occur in Minnesota, Linda Gormanson, DNR burn permit coordinator, said.
Wildfire season typically occurs in those months because snow melts and exposes dead and dry grass and brush that can easily light and spread fires, she said.
Restrictions are in effect for the following counties: Anoka, Benton, Big Stone, Chisago, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Ramsey, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Washington and Wright.
North-central Minnesota restrictions will begin Monday, and the rest of the state will follow, Gormanson said.
The spring restrictions typically begin a few weeks after snow melts, which happened earlier this year in much of the state. Since temperatures have still been cool, people are less likely to start their spring cleanup. The state has also had enough wet weather to keep fires at bay, Gormanson said.
"We do want to give people a chance to clean up," she said. "We put the restrictions on when we have the higher fire danger."
This year's restrictions start within a few days of the previous two years' dates, she said.
"When we see that we're picking up fires here and there, that's when we really consider restrictions," she said.
As an alternative to burning, the state is encouraging residents to compost or haul brush and debris to collection sites.
Campfires still OK
But the spring restrictions don't mean spring campfires are out of the questions. Burning permits aren't required for campfires up to 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet high. Permits are also aren't required for fires contained in charcoal grills, camp stoves or other devices designed for cooking outside.
Fires in an approved burner also don't require a permit — but they're not recommended, Gormanson said.
Spring burning restrictions usually last four to six weeks until plants green up. Gormanson said since the restrictions began in 2001, they have reduced the number and size of fires the DNR responds to.
Once restrictions are lifted, Gormanson said residents should check weather conditions and the DNR's website before burning.
Residents need to have a printed permit on hand while conducting any burn that requires a permit. The fee for an open burning permit is $5.
Permits available online are only for burning small piles of vegetation or areas less than one acre in size, according to the DNR. To burn larger piles or larger swaths of land, residents need to contact a local forestry office.
To find burning restrictions for different areas, go to mndnr.gov/burnrestrictions or call a local DNR Forestry office.
Haley Hansen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.