With all the snow gone, now is the time of year many rural residents want to get their property cleaned up, a task that includes collecting broken and/or dead tree branches and other waste like leaves and putting them in a pile to dispose of.
And what's the best way to dispose of this pile? You guessed it: by burning it.
But before you strike that match, please pause for a moment and remind yourself that we're in a drought.
Folks, the burning has to wait.
This weekend's conditions were ripe for fires; the lack of moisture combined with strong, sustained winds that blew the entire weekend really dried things out and should've raised a red flag that screamed: DON'T BURN!
Local fire departments responded to two significant grass fires this weekend - one on Saturday near Garvin Park in Lyon County, and one north of Minneota. While we're not technically under a burning ban in southwest Minnesota - Murray County is limited to restricted burning - we should all know that it doesn't pay burn right now, no matter how badly you want to get rid of that ugly pile of dead branches and leaves.
The Department of Natural Resources' fire danger rating map has nearly the entire state in the "high-risk" category, meaning fires can start easily and spread at a very fast rate. When it comes to fires, this is like DEFCON 4, and it's not likely to change anytime soon, even if we did get a little rain Monday. The DNR announced Monday it is imposing burning restrictions over much of Minnesota, starting next Monday, which means the state will not give out burning permits for yard waste or brush burning. Campfires will still be allowed. We think the state of Minnesota should take it a step further and slap an ultra-restrictive burning ban on the entire state, effective immediately. Why wait a week? If someone is caught starting a fire, a $500 fine should await.
With these conditions, there is no way to guarantee your private, "controlled" burn will stay that way; in fact, there's a solid chance it won't, meaning small-town fire departments, including volunteer departments which must watch their resources very carefully, are spending them on situations that are clearly avoidable. It doesn't matter how small of a burn you have planned since it really does only take a spark to get a big fire going.
We are all slaves to Mother Nature and must live certain parts of our lives by a set of rules that change well, with the weather. There's nothing we can do to reverse these arid conditions, so we must use the common sense that God gave us when it comes to the decisions we make - like knowing when not to strike that match.
The state put a burning ban in effect last fall that included open burning and campfires and didn't lift it until mid-October when cooler, wet weather moved into the area. It's pretty obvious that today's conditions are similar to those that prompted that ban, so what are you waiting for state officials? Stop playing with fire and introduce another ban now.