Be careful when working with fire

It might not look like it, as the forecast called for cooler temps today and possible showers tomorrow, but we are indeed in the fire season.

In North Dakota, that is just about anytime there is little or no snow on the ground or it’s pouring rain outside. That is because our prairies, pastures, croplands and wooded area contain so much fuel to feed a fire should one spark.

Lightning, passing trains, even lawn mower blades striking rocks can trigger a fire under certain conditions, and those are just the more remote possibilities. “Controlled” fires that grow out of control perhaps come first in people’s minds when thinking about how most large and damaging fires begin in this region.

We can’t prevent all fires from occurring but we can take steps to head off trouble. Number one, pay attention to the warnings. Conditions can vary greatly over even short distances, and can change rather quickly given our unpredictable winds. That is why it is important to listen when authorities such as the National Weather Service issue warnings, and others in a position to do so declare outdoor burning bans. Those decisions are based on conditions over a wide area, not just what’s happening in your neighborhood or around your burn barrel.

In a recent interview, Rex Weltikol, Minot Rural fire chief, offered some good advice.

“We have warm weather starting up again,” said Weltikol. “We want to let everybody know to use caution when burning. Make sure those bonfires are out completely. Stir up the ashes and pour more water on them.”

The day after a fire has been put out is critical too. High winds can often cause ashes to re-ignite. The result can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation.

Weltikol advises notifying local fire departments before starting a controlled burn to reduce the chances of firefighters responding to reports of fires that are being properly monitored. If a fire gets out of control it should be reported immediately by calling 9-1-1.

Not sure what the fire danger is today? The rural fire department’s website, found at minotrural.org, is one source for conditions around the entire state. Check it out.

The site has a lot of other useful information too. There’s lot’s there to read on a cold or rainy day. You’ll be better prepared for when the sun comes out and things warm up, whenever that might be.