Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Wildfire Danger in Anoka County—This was TOO Close for Comfort!

Yesterday was a beautiful, almost spring weather day. Strong winds were blowing the cold air out and there was a promise of spring weather around the corner for later in the week. Those of use who live in Anoka County near wetlands and prairies realize the windy spring weather has some drawbacks. The winter has left grass dry and dormant. One lit cigarette or untended bonfire can spark a huge wildfire. The Minnesota DNR always has spring fire restrictions and we are always aware of them until that first spring rain. DNR Spring Fire Restrictions.

In the morning we were concerned to hear that a few fires had broken out along Lexington Avenue from Blaine to Ham Lake. Usually along the road the fires are started by carelessly tossed cigarettes but several within an hour along the same stretch of road was suspicious. The fires were contained but when they mention Carlos Avery and fire, I don’t like it at all. We live near the Carlos Avery Preserve. It is a huge area that stretches from Lino Lakes to Wyoming. I know of several homes that abut the preserve and so fires in the area are very scary….Especially on a windy day.

So as I headed down my road a few miles away late yesterday afternoon, imagine my concern as I saw smoke across the sod field in the Carlos Avery area. My commute takes me on Broadway Avenue, a main thoroughfare that bisects the preserve in Columbus. As I travelled east, I knew the danger had not past. The south side was ablaze.

It was frightening. I snapped a few pictures as I approached but figured the deputy directing traffic would frown upon by distracted driving so didn’t get any as I went by the area where the fire was so close I could feel it heat up the inside of the car. I also resisted the impulse to pull over for additional pictures as so many others had.

Wildfires are dangerous and unpredictable; winds change.
It was a scary afternoon. We were diverted on our way home about 10 miles south to Lino Lakes on our return trip. The fire spread. 1500 total acres burned. Friends we know were being evacuated. The smoke filled the air. Fortunately the wildfire was contained without losses of homes or lives. But the scars will remain.

As I commuted down Broadway this morning, the scorched land was still smoldering. A Forest Lake firefighter was arrested in connection with starting the blaze at around 1pm in the ditch along Broadway. The story becomes even stranger when it is revealed that he was a former business owner, award winning volunteer fire fighter, coach. What goes through someone’s mind when they put so many others at risk?
Spring fire restrictions in place for a reason. Heed the warnings.

Fire Facts

  • Approximately 80 percent of all wildfires in MN occur during April and May.
  • The burning of yard debris is a major cause of wildfires in Minnesota.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/