Verbrugge warns of Rock County fire dangers

Rock County Sheriff Evan Verbrugge is putting out an urgent warning to area residents not to burn and to be careful about inadvertent fires.

Local fire officials have been quick to respond to recent grass fires, and so far property damage has been prevented.

But Verbrugge said that could all change quickly, due to extreme dryness of vegetation.

He passed along an email from the DNR that illustrates the fire danger in Rock County and the surrounding area. 

“A head fire (part of fire running with the wind) in tall grass and standing crops will spread at up to 108 feet per minute and have flame lengths to 14 feet,” the message stated.

“A head fire in leaf litter will spread 3 feet per minute and have flame lengths of 2 feet.”

A flanking fire (spreading across the wind) and backing fire (fire moving against the wind) will have lower rates of spread and flame lengths.

The probability that sparks landing in a dry fuel will ignite is now about 80 percent, according to the DNR.

“Burn piles and cooking fires will smolder for days,” the DNR message stated. “Be sure your fire is dead out before you leave it.”

Rock County Commissioner Stan Williamson said farmers should be aware that they play an important role in fire prevention and control during harvest.

“They should have tillage equipment in the field where they’re working, otherwise, the fire department doesn’t stand a prayer,” Williamson said.

He referenced a field fire in his neighborhood (Don Reker’s land) Sunday when 30 acres burned.

He said a neighbor with a disk nearby was alerted and he tilled a barrier through the field.

“It’s very dangerous out there,” Williamson said of the fire danger.

Rock County remains in a sheriff-imposed burning ban until further notice. 

“We did have someone call into the office to advise that they were going to burn and they were surprised that we had a burning ban,” Verbrugge said.

“I just want to pass this information along again as Rock County is in a Red Flag warning. We are just too dry to be burning.”

Recreational burning in a backyard fire pit is still allowed at this point.

Statewide and national wildfire updates can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire.

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