Rare 'Red Flag' warnings issued over wildfire risks - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Rare 'Red Flag' warnings issued over wildfire risks

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Map courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Map courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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Anyone who spent time outside on Monday knows it was windy, but the conditions aren't just ripe for bad hair days. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the risk of wildfires is dangerously high.

The National Weather Service has issued "red flag" warnings for both Monday and Tuesday, but the DNR says those warnings are really rare -- with only four or five issued each year.

Now, strong winds and a recent drought are turning grassy areas into tinderboxes -- and a simple cigarette could send them up in flames.

Firefighters in Maplewood know all too well that even the smallest flame can quickly become a major problem after a grass fire near Fish Creek Bluff burned about five acres on Monday. Crews had to haul water from a hydrant about a half a mile away to douse hot spots and mop up the flames. Investigators still aren't sure what sparked the fire.

Right now, the majority of Minnesota is in extreme fire danger, according to the DNR.

"You get conditions where fires will start from unusual causes," explained Olin Phillips, wildfire manager for the DNR. "If you drove with your car with a catalytic converter into tall grasses, you could start a fire from that catalytic converter."

Residents living on gold counties on the DNR map need a special permit to burn anything other than a campfire, but DNR officials warn even a campfire could be risky.

"Most of the fires are started by people," Phillips said. "If people are more cautious with fire, we can avoid these bad conditions and avoid the impacts we might otherwise see."

So far, Phillips says people haven't made any mistakes, but if you do accidentally start a fire, officials say you shouldn't try to put it out yourself. At least one person dies every year from trying to extinguish a fire on their own.

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