Reporting Aristea Brady
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Grass fires are an unusual sight for this time of year, but they’ve been sparking up quite a bit in the last few weeks.
Fire crews were called out to a grass fire in Ham Lake Sunday.
Our weak winter has meant there’s not as much snow on the ground. The snow helps protect the land and vegetation from getting too dry and catching fire.
The grass fire concern will grow as the weather gets warmer. While we usually don’t start reporting on grass fires until late April, maybe even May, things are different this year.
Byron Paulson, the Fire Weather Program Leader at the National Weather Service, said he’s never seen the land as dry as it is this year.
“Continued dry conditions, couple of wind event, you know, we could be off to the races,” he said.
Saturday night’s grass fire in Hugo and Sunday’s flames in Ham Lake show the races have already started.
In the event of a wildfire, it’s Paulson who’s on the ground, helping the firefighters with the forecasts.
Paulson said, on average, Minnesota sees somewhere around 55 inches of snow in the winter, and so far, we’ve only seen 15 inches.
“Probably well over ninety percent of the state, except for the far southeast corner, is in either moderate or severe drought,” Paulson said.
As for what’s ahead, Paulson said his maps show Minnesota will likely remain in drought through the end of April.
While Paulson says it’s too late for watering, he says what you can do is heed the grass fire warning now and limit your burning.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently began requiring permits for open burning in all but the northern part of the state.
Paulson said this is extremely unusual for mid-February. Permits usually aren’t required when there’s snow on the ground.