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DNR warns of increased fire danger due to equipment use, continuing drought

The cooling of temperatures with falls arrival does little to reduce wild fire dangers, especially with drought conditions worsening in parts of Minnesota.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Fall in Minnesota brings with it increased use of farming equipment and recreational vehicles, which has fire officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sending out a warning this year. 

Drought conditions in areas of the state, when combined with equipment powered by hot combustion engines, increase the risk of wildfires. The DNR on Thursday warned operators of farm machinery and off-road vehicles to use special caution near dry vegetation. 

“Don’t believe that cooler fall weather cancels out fire danger,” said Karen Harrison, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. “October is historically a high-risk month for wildfires in Minnesota because vegetation is drying and many outdoor activities are underway – such as crop harvesting and hunting – that could result in a wildfire if care is not taken.”

The DNR says heat and sparks from power equipment can trigger a wildfire, as can parking a hot vehicle over tall, dry grass and vegetation. The agency points to the fact that exhaust systems on rec vehicles can reach temps of more than 1,000 degrees during and after operation, and adds that metal farm equipment can create sparks when hitting rocks or making contact with hard surfaces. 

To avoid starting a fire, the DNR advises those operating motorized equipment to: 

  • Avoid driving over and parking on tall dry grass. Heat from a vehicle’s exhaust can easily ignite dry vegetation.
  • Make sure equipment is maintained and fire safe, and that all internal combustion-powered equipment has an approved spark arrester.
  • Keep trailer chains from dragging, which can create sparks on roads.

Checking for current fire danger conditions is always a good idea during the spring, fall and dry stretches. You can do so by checking out the DNR statewide fire danger and burning restrictions map and adjusting or postponing outdoor activites as needed.

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