Douglas County, others in burning ban
A grass fire near Carlos Creek Winery that butted up against Oakwood Terrace Neighborhood, aided by extremely windy conditions, was just the beginning as several area fire departments fought brush and grass fires this past week.
"If you don't have to, don't burn anything right now," Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said Monday, hours before the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources banned open burning in 30 counties in the northern half of the state.
The ban, effective immediately, includes Douglas and all of its surrounding counties. No burning permits for brush or yard waste will be issued in these counties until the ban is lifted.
Karrow said the Alexandria Fire Department set a new record for how many calls it responded to in a 24-hour period. The previous record, set in the late 1990s, was seven calls.
The department broke that record with eight calls in a 22-hour period from approximately 9 a.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. The calls included a structure fire, vehicle fire, fire alarm and five grass fires.
Those grass fires were large ones, Karrow said, with mutual aid being called in for a couple of them and a possible evacuation of an apartment building on another.
"It is so tinder dry right now and with the wind, it's a bad combination," Karrow said Monday. "It is an extreme fire danger right now."
He said there are burning restrictions currently throughout the state, and in Douglas County burning is currently allowed with a variance burning permit. Karrow did note that people can still burn recreational fires, like bonfires, but he cautions against it.
"If you do have a bonfire, please pay close attention to it and make sure it is completely out when done," he said.
The fire that burned a field along County Road 34 up to the fenceline of the Oakwood Terrace neighborhood Friday morning, April 27, was fought by departments from Alexandria, Garfield and Carlos. The initial report was that the fire may have been started by a vehicle that became stuck in a field and was trying to get out.
Conditions were already dry and conducive to fires before then. On Wednesday, April 25, embers from burning leaves ignited a grass fire and an old schoolhouse south of Garfield. The schoolhouse became fully engulfed and was declared a total loss.
According to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Dena Hintermeister had set fire to a pile of leaves inside a burn pit near an old school house on her property. She made an emergency call to the sheriff's office at 2:57 p.m., from a farm building on fire at 497 Norlana Lane SW.
Hintermeister lost personal items that were inside the schoolhouse to the fire, which was fought by members of the Garfield and Brandon fire departments.
Among the other grass fires this past week was one Sunday afternoon near mile marker 93 along Interstate 94, southwest of Garfield. The Brandon, Garfield and Alexandria fire departments responded to that one.
• • •
Echo Press Reporters Celeste Edenloff and Lowell Anderson contributed to this story.