Washington County enacts total burning ban

Three fires at Carlos Avery refuge show severity of widespread drought


Clint Riese
News Editor

The fire chiefs of Washington County on Friday initiated a total burning ban for the county. The measure, which will be enforced indefinitely, was taken due to a severe drought that has made for prime wildfire conditions.

The Forest Lake Fire Department responded to three small blazes at Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in the past week, said Chief Gary Sigfrinius.

Light rain fell on Forest Lake Tuesday morning, but Sigfrinius likened it to a drop in a bucket.

“All it takes is one sun-shiny day with a lot of wind [to counteract that precipitation],” he said.

The county used its Code Red system to announce the ban on Friday. The ban went into effect that evening. It covers all outdoor fires, including campfires and recreational fires. No burning permits will be issued and the use of fireworks is not allowed.

The dry conditions allow fires to start easily and spread rapidly. The Minnesota Incident Command System agencies are concerned that prolonged lack of rainfall has allowed even the large woody debris and standing conifer trees to ignite easily as well as areas with peat soils.

The ban will remain in place until sufficient precipitation falls in the area.

Sigfrinius believes it has been over a decade since the last such ban in the area.

“I can’t remember a total ban for quite a few years,” he said. “We’ve had restrictions where no burning permits were given, but to have a total ban, the fire conditions have to be very serious.”

The DNR also put Chisago County under a burning restriction that started on Sunday. That order restricts all but charcoal campfires measuring three feet or less in diameter and height.