Drought conditions in central and southern Minnesota are drying vegetation. With these dry conditions comes an increase in wildfire risk. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging operators of heavy or agricultural equipment and off-road vehicles to exercise caution near dry vegetation.
Heat and sparks from farm machinery and heavy equipment can ignite wildfires, as can vehicles parked over tall grass. Exhaust systems on both road and recreation vehicles can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees during operation, and farm equipment can create sparks by hitting rocks or hard surfaces. It only takes one spark to turn harvest season into wildfire season.
“Don’t believe that cooler fall weather cancels out fire danger,” said Karen Harrison, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. “October is historically a high-risk month for wildfires in Minnesota because vegetation is drying and many outdoor activities are underway – such as crop harvesting and hunting – that could result in a wildfire if care is not taken.”
The DNR encourages the following strategies to keep equipment from turning into fire starters:
- Avoid driving over and parking on tall dry grass. Heat from a vehicle’s exhaust can easily ignite dry vegetation.
- Make sure equipment is maintained and fire safe, and that all internal combustion-powered equipment has an approved spark arrester.
- Keep trailer chains from dragging, which can create sparks on roads.
- Always check current fire danger conditions on the DNR statewide fire danger and burning restrictions map (mndnr.gov/BurnRestrictions) and adjust or postpone activity as needed.