National Weather Service declares Fire Weather Watch Friday

Times Report

A combination of continued dry conditions, extremely high temperatures, which could hit 100 degrees, gusty winds and low humidity on Friday in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota has resulted in the National Weather Service issuing a “fire weather watch” Friday afternoon and into the evening.

The NWS says that any fires that ignite will spread rapidly and become difficult to control and suppress.

Friday’s forecast calls for high temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees and southwest winds 15 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts to 35. The relative humidity is expected to be low, at around 15%.

A fire weather watch means critical fire weather conditions are forecast. It’s possible that Friday will be declared a Red Flag Warning Day, several of which have been issued previously during this dry spring that came on the heels of a dry winter.

Minnesota’s Interagency Fire Center agrees with the NWS, and says the near-critical fire weather conditions will persist through the weekend. Just because spring has resulted in things “greening up,” the fire center says, that doesn’t mean the danger for wildfires has decreased.

“Minimal precipitation throughout northern Minnesota brought little relief over the spring, and we are entering summer under higher fire danger conditions in northern Minnesota,” said Travis Verdegan, fire behavior specialist Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. “The appearance of green-up is deceiving as many areas in the north are now two to three inches below average for rainfall.”  

Verdegan says more extreme wildfire behavior has been reported from recent wildfires than typically occurs this time of year due to the dryness. He anticipates high fire danger will continue into the summer season as abnormally dry conditions linger.

Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility, the fire center says. When conditions are this dry, any source of fire, even debris burns and campfires, can quickly turn into an escape wildfire.

• Don’t burn debris.

• Keep campfires 3 feet in diameter by 3 feet high or smaller.

• Remain with your campfire until it is out cold. Keep a hose or enough water and a shovel nearby to drown-stir-repeat until cold enough to touch.

• Be aware, sparks from gas-powered engines (including lawnmowers and ATVs) near dry grass or other vegetation can easily ignite a wildfire.

If you do spot an escaped wildfire, don’t hesitate, call 911.