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Heat, Drought Conditions Raise Minn. Wildfire Risk

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — With high temperatures and drought conditions in parts of the state, fire officials are warning about the risk of wildfires and urging people to be careful in dry areas.

Part of the state is still covered with green vegetation, which reduces the risk of fire, but the landscape can change quickly in a heat wave, said Tom Fasteland, a coordinator with the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids.

“You might start seeing some of that green vegetation start to die off,” Fasteland said. “I think a lot of people are starting to see where their lawns, when they mow their lawns, that they’re all turning brown. And that’s again just a sign that their soils are very dry.”

He said people should be careful in recreational parts of the state. Areas around Bemidji, Detroit Lakes and Cass Lake are dry, and in parts of northern and central Minnesota the fire-danger rating is “high” or “very high.”

The state Department of Natural Resources identified Bemidji as the city with the highest potential in Minnesota. The area received 1.5 inches of rain between July 1 and Friday, almost 5 inches less than the 6.3 inches that fall on average in August alone, the National Weather Service said.

Bemidji DNR Forester Jon Drimel said the agency has been ramping up its staffing levels and watching for increased chances for wildfires. Officials are also on call at night in case a major fire flares up, he added.

The weekend weather might help ease fire risks. Forecasts in the Bemidji area call for chances of scattered and isolated showers and storms throughout Saturday and Sunday, with highs in the mid-80s and low-90s. There’s also a possibility of isolated showers Monday night into Tuesday.

If the area doesn’t get enough rain, the state’s Interagency Fire Center has the power to restrict campfires or cancel burning permits.

“This is a really key weekend,” Fasteland said. “We’ll see how widespread and how much rain we’ll get.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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