Dry winter brings burning restrictions
Weird as it may be, the city of Farmington isn't issuing any permits for open burning these days.
It's a little unusual, Farmington fire marshal John Powers said, but a lack of snow is causing drought conditions in most of the state. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging caution.
The DNR's concern comes after a Dec. 26 fire in northwestern Minnesota. The fire burned through a wooded area quickly thanks to the dry conditions and high winds.
Powers said Farmington and the surrounding townships really aren't much different.
"With the dry, tall grass we have, with no snow cover and the drought-like fall we had, it's a problem," Powers said. "No snow cover makes it dangerous for rapid fire spread in open areas. It's just plain too dry."
In a news release, the DNR said burning restrictions will change as the weather changes and snow cover changes. Right now, the DNR requires burning permits when there is less than three inches of continuous snow surrounding a planned burn area. Farmington still requires a burning permit, Powers said, and right now the city is not issuing any until there is a decent snow cover.
"In my 10 years here, in the winter, we've never had the reason to restrict burning at this time of the year," Powers said. "This is abnormal.
Recreational camp fires are still allowed, Powers said, but only if they are contained in a proper burning pit.
Powers has another concern about open fires at this time of the year, too. Because brush fires are not usually common in the winter, Farmington's firefighters drain the brush trucks they use for fighting those fires. Typically, during the normal brush fire season, those trucks carry about 200 gallons of water, but that water is drained over the winter so it doesn't freeze up in the tanks.
If Farmington has an extensive brush fire, firefighters would have to take the time to hook those trucks up to hydrants and refill the tanks before responding to an open field or yard.