No end in sight: Fire ban staysIt’s been almost a month since River Falls and most surrounding towns and cities issued outdoor fire bans. River Falls Fire Chief Scott Nelson says it’s still the status quo until the foreseeable future.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
It’s been almost a month since River Falls and most surrounding towns and cities issued outdoor fire bans. River Falls Fire Chief Scott Nelson says it’s still the status quo until the foreseeable future.
“It is tinder-dry out,” Nelson said. “Recreational fires in burn pits are part of this ban. However, grilling food is still OK, but I would remind people to use caution and have a source of water or a fire extinguisher when grilling outside.”
Farm fields being harvested for fall are equally dry.
“I would also urge farmers in their tractors to keep that fire extinguisher handy,” Nelson said, adding that hot machinery coming in contact with a piece of metal or flint rock can ignite flames under current conditions.
“I’ve been in the firefighting business for 23 years, and this is about the worst I’ve ever seen for this time of year,” Nelson said. “These conditions are more typical of early spring before everything greens up. Instead now everything has dried up.”
Last Wednesday afternoon on the UW-River Falls campus a woman tossed a cigarette butt on the lawn layered with pine needles near McMillan Hall.
That careless gesture set off a grass fire that drew River Falls firefighters. It was quickly put out before anyone was hurt or property damaged.
Nelson said colder temps and frost won’t ease the drought and fire threat.
“We need moisture, a sustained soaking for a couple of days,” he said. “Just about anything could start a fire right now.”
The threat is aggravated by frequent gusty winds, making blazes that ignite harder to contain as they spread fast.
Added Nelson: “The morning dew (also) does not lessen the danger. With minimal rain predicted in the next week, I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Nelson said towns outside River Falls also have fire bans. Rural residents should call their town board chairpersons if they have questions.