Minnesota Wildfires in 2012 Surpass Previous Year

By KBJR News 1

September 12, 2012 Updated Sep 12, 2012 at 6:05 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- Fire danger is very high through areas of Northeastern Minnesota, prompting the National Weather Service to issue Red Flag Warnings. These advisories aren't a surprise; the number of wild land fires has been increasing thanks to a change in weather patterns.

Already is 2012, there have been 997 wild fires, surpassing the previous year by close to 300 fires, and the Fall fire season isn't even over yet.

Meteorologists point to weather change as the reason for the fire increase, especially in Northeast Minnesota.

"In the last couple years, we have been below normal precipitation in areas north of the Iron Range, which especially across the Boundary Waters, the Ely area and because of that we've had wild fires start across the area," said Meteorologist Mike Stewart with the National Weather Service.

Minnesota has actually fared better than many other states, not surpassing the yearly average of 1,500 fires in the past five years.

But nationally, fire has created big problems, prompting the US Forest Service to depart from its traditional management policy to keep up with the number of rapidly spreading fires.

"We are being pretty aggressive this season in suppressing fires when they start," said Kris Reichenbach with the Superior National Forest.

Strategy prior to the 1990's, had wild land fires put out before they could spread. But that created a build up of fuel, leading to bigger, more dangerous fires where the blazes often got out of control.

"There was a history in our country of suppressing all fire, very quickly and it did cause build up in some areas and changes to the forest; we know better now," said Reichenbach.

That's why the forest service, once this dry weather passes, will shift back to an adaptive management style in which firefighters will let a fire burn as long as it doesn't threaten people or property.

Weather experts are predicting this pattern of drier than normal weather could last through the winter.

Zach Vavricka

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