Fire spreads quickly in dry, breezy conditions

A controlled burn southwest of Ihlen on Monday, March 11 reignited on Tuesday, March 12 and spread beyond the intended area, illustrating the risks of burning in dry, windy conditions.

Jasper Fire Chief Jeff Leslie said the Jasper Fire Department was conducting the controlled burn on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land on Monday. The Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office had issued a burn ban before the fire was started, but the fire department chose to proceed with the burn at that time.

Leslie said firefighters were on the scene for three or four hours on Monday and the fire was thought to be out when they left. It then reignited on Tuesday afternoon. Leslie said he suspected that some rotting trees in a grove were still smoldering and the fire was reignited by wind. The Jasper Fire Department, Pipestone Fire Department and Edgerton Fire Department responded, and Leslie said firefighters were on the scene for about eight hours on Tuesday.

By the time the fire was out, Leslie said it had burned about 50 acres beyond the quarter-mile by 50-yard area that the Jasper Fire Department had intended to burn. One firefighter was transported from the scene with suspected burns, but Leslie said he was not seriously injured. He also said the remains of a barn that had collapsed several years ago were burned.

Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Hamann said that burn bans, like the one in place when the controlled burn was started, are issued by the sheriff’s office. He said there’s not a specific formula used to determine if a ban is warranted, but factors include wind, and moisture and humidity levels, as well as guidance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and information from the National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS had issued a Red Flag Warning on Monday and as of the middle of last week, the DNR listed Pipestone County and the surrounding area as having a high fire danger, indicating that fires start easily and spread at a fast rate.

State statute prohibits burning during a burn ban put into effect by a local authority, county, or a state department or agency. Hamann said violators could be issued a citation.

The sheriff’s office notifies rural residents of burn bans on Facebook and when residents call 507-825-1100 before starting a fire, as required. When they call in, they must provide a permit number, and indicate what section and township the fire will be in and what will be burned. Burn permits for rural residents are available at the sheriff’s office. They are free of charge and do not need to be renewed unless changes are needed such as updated ownership or property information.

The sheriff’s office also issues burn permits for recreational burning in the city of Pipestone free of charge. Those permits are effective for one year and residents do not need to call before burning.

This story has been modified from its original version to reflect corrected information.