Discarded cigarette lights up 60-acres

With recent snow melt, dry conditions were likely a cause for the fire’s rapid spread, according to the Watertown Fire Department’s Facebook page. (Photo by Watertown Fire Department)
With recent snow melt, dry conditions were likely a cause for the fire’s rapid spread, according to the Watertown Fire Department’s Facebook page. (Photo by Watertown Fire Department)

A grass fire broke out late afternoon on Tuesday, March 28, just north of Watertown. Flames started when land owners discarded a cigarette while cutting wood. The Watertown Fire Department was called to the blaze, which grew up to 60-acres in size, requiring 70 firemen. Montrose, Mayer, Delano, St. Boni and Victoria fire departments assisted, along with a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) helicopter.

The Watertown Fire Department used the fire as a reminder on Facebook to “(remember) the dry conditions with the recent snow melt” and to “please be cautious out there”. Recently the DNR issued statewide information on current fire danger and safety restrictions. Most of Minnesota is being classified as low to moderate fire danger while burning restrictions marks central Minnesota yellow, meaning burning is restricted there.

With warm temperatures, little to no snow and dry vegetation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have started spring burning restrictions in parts of the state. As conditions for wildfires increase, exposed dead grass and brush can light easily and burn quickly, especially in windy conditions.

To find burning restrictions for different areas, go to mndnr.gov/burnrestrictions or call a local DNR Forestry office. Fire conditions may change quickly. So, be sure to check before burning.

During spring restrictions, the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste. Debris burning is especially dangerous in April and May when most wildfires occur in Minnesota. Residents are encouraged to use alternatives to burning such as composting or hauling brush to a collection site.

The restrictions usually last four to six weeks until sufficient green growth occurs. These spring restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number and size of fires the DNR responds to each year.

Burning restrictions do not apply to campfires, they are still allowed. Clear an area around the campfire, watch it continuously and make sure it is out cold to the touch before leaving.