MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As drought conditions return to Minnesota, authorities warned Thursday that the wildfire danger is rising throughout much of the state.
A weekly update from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed a new area of moderate drought centered on Carlton and northern Pine counties in eastern Minnesota, where farmers have been struggling with stressed crops and dry pastures in recent weeks.
The new map also showed that a persistent patch of moderate drought in northwestern Minnesota has grown significantly in the past week, especially in Clearwater and eastern Polk counties.
Eighty-one percent of Minnesota is now abnormally dry or worse, the report said, up from 32 percent from last week. And 10 percent of Minnesota is now in drought, up from less than 2 percent last week. The only parts of Minnesota not rated abnormally dry are along the northern border and a narrow band from Minneapolis to the Iowa border.
Precipitation over the last 30 days has been half the normal level over most of the state, so Department of Natural Resources fire managers urged people to use caution.
While Minnesota has had relatively few wildfires this summer, the DNR said a predicted dry spell for the next week or so could change that quickly.
The wildfire danger is rated high across much of the central belt of Minnesota from Pine County in the east to the North Dakota border, and from Marshall County to Lac qui Parle County in western Minnesota. DNR forestry areas with the highest fire potential are Bemidji, Park Rapids, Backus, Little Falls, Sandstone, and lands north of Cambridge and south of Cloquet.
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