Froeber says DNR understands farmers are coming off a terrible fall and less than favorable spring so far.
Even though the Minnesota DNR cited Thursday, May 7 as being especially dangerous to burn in some parts of Minnesota because of the gusty north winds and very low humidity, some rural burning took place anyway, including what looked from a distance like a ditch burn a couple miles northeast of Crookston. Smoke from the fire blown south by the stiff breeze could be seen for miles.
Crookston Fire Chief Tim Froeber tells the Times that most permits are applied for weeks in advance and the farmers were simply waiting for the right conditions to burn (dry, favorable wind direction, available help, etc.)
The CFD is allowed to issue “variance permits” for farmers in the area to get land ready for planting for burning off Conservation Reserve Program acres. Beyond that, Froeber said, the DNR controls everything related to burning. The agency issues fire danger warnings and activates permits that have been applied for.
“Once the permit is activated by the Minnesota DNR, the applicant is responsible for their fire and any results that might come from lighting it,” Froeber said, adding that the DNR recognizes the unfavorable conditions farmers are facing due to the historically wet fall of 2019 and the incomplete harvest that resulted. “This spring weather has not been the best, either, for farmers to deal with the remnants of last year’s crop,” he added.
The DNR will likely continue to activate variance permits unless local fire departments advise that they not be activated, or if the area where the permit has been applied for is subsequently classified as being in “Extreme Fire Condition.”
Froeber adds that permits should not be issued or activated at this time to burn off ditches or to burn brush piles unless they are hindering putting in crops.