By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
With temperatures in the 90s, low humidity and winds at 38 miles per hour, Tuesday’s weather created perfect conditions for grass fires — and there were several in Morrison County.
“The combination of these three factors in the weather — temperature, humidity and wind are the three primary factors for wildlife fires,” said Jason Kern. Kern works with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry.
Area firefighters were busy responding to calls in Little Falls, Randall and Scandia Valley. All but one of the fires was contained and controlled within a few hours.
The largest fire started near 105th Avenue in Randall on the west border of Camp Ripley, eventually leapt the borders of Camp Ripley.
Kern said 97 acres burned and by Wednesday morning the fire was contained. Contained, he said, does not mean “controlled.”
“Containment means we have a line around it, that with weather conditions, the fire will not progress outside of the line,” said Kern. “That means we feel that the fire will not spread.” The DNR was hoping to have the fire under control sometime Thursday.
More than 30 firefighters from three area fire departments and the Camp Ripley Fire Department worked with the DNR.
Randall Fire Chief John Kreuser said his team was called out about 4 p.m. Tuesday to a fire on 18th Avenue near Randall. They called for mutual aid from the Flensburg Fire Department. The Flensburg Department was quickly diverted to the larger fire on 105th Avenue when the call came in at about 4:30 p.m.
Kreuser said only a couple of acres were burned on 18th Avenue. Randall volunteer firefighters stayed on the scene until it was controlled.
Little Falls Fire Chief Mike Nieman said neighbors reported a fire Tuesday on Grouse Road in Little Falls, about 6:22 p.m. As 23 firefighters rolled in, neighbors in the area had begun to try “to knock it down as much as they could,” Nieman said. The firefighters worked for 1 1/2 hours before the fire was under control.
Nieman said the fire may have started from ashes dumped from an outdoor wood burner days before. “The wind caught it and flared it,” he said.
The Little Falls Department was called in on the fire in Randall near Camp Ripley as well.
Kreuser said the DNR assisted and air support was brought in from the DNR in the form of a CL 15, which is a plane which can scoop water and drop it, he said.
Green Prairie Fish Lake was one water source, he said.
The DNR is the authority that will investigate the cause of that fire.
Kern said the Randall, Flensburg and Little Falls Fire Departments, the Camp Ripley Fire and Emergency Response and the DNR worked cooperatively to share resources. He put the number of personnel involved in putting out the fire on 105th Avenue at 30.
“That fire occurred toward the end of the day. Volunteer firefighters were coming off of work and had to go to work,” said Kern. “DNR resources were out on many fires already that day. It was a long day.”
While firefighters from Motley didn’t assist with the fires near Randall and Scandia Valley, they were called to assist with the grass fire in Menahga. Tuesday, Motley sent 10 volunteer firemen and three trucks, who remained at the scene for 9 1/2 hours. Motley Fire Chief Dave Greig said the last he learned Thursday, was that 7,100 acres had been burned and that just 25 percent of the fire had been contained. Friday, the fire had been 65 percent contained.
Kern said residents were asked to wait to hold off of any burning “until we get any rains,” he said.
Fire danger is also present because of any fire burned in the last few weeks.
“If you have burned in the past few weeks, please check your ash piles to make sure they are truly out,” said Kern. “‘Out’ means you can stick your hand in the ash pile without getting burned.
Nieman said while there is no ban on recreational fires, it isn’t recommended. “We don’t have a ban, but use common sense. No one has to be sitting at a camp fire when it’s this dry and this windy,” he said.
Firefighters are hoping for rain.