MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — All the rain that came with Monday night’s storms helped dial down the risk of wildfires in the area.

The risk of wildfires peaks over the next couple months, but because of the early spring conditions, some firefighters are worried their helicopters won’t be able to get water from some still-frozen lakes.

“This year, with all the ice being on the lakes, it’s a problem to find water,” said helicopter pilot Ron Merten.

Add to that no snowfall, hot temperatures and high winds and you’ve got what Merten calls a Murphy’s Law situation.

So some of them are trying something new. Given the limited accessibility to water, which is mostly available in only the shallower areas, crews are turning to “drop tanks,” or portable tubs connected to tanker trucks.

“With helicopters being able to use the portable tanks, it just opens up a whole new ball game for us,” said Julie Midthun, with the Department of Natural Resources.

DNR firefighters say they aim for a maximum of ten minutes from dispatch to the time the helicopter takes-off.

The tanks usually hold about 100 to 120 gallons.

According to the DNR, there’ve been to more than 1,500 grass fires in 2012 already. That’s 15 times what the state usually sees on average in March.

One week from today, the DNR will limit open burning for much of central and northern Minnesota. Campfires are still allowed.


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