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Here's how you can stay alert to fire danger conditions in Minnesota

How many people are actually aware when fire danger is high?

Minnesotans tend to be well informed and prepared for severe weather like tornadoes, damaging winds, winter storms, blizzards and floods, but how many people can say they're aware when fire conditions are elevated?

The topic deserves attention with this year's fire season off to a blazing start, and even more so after two homes 30 miles apart in west-central Minnesota burned down on Monday. 

The first home was torched in Meeker County when a controlled burn reignited and caught the house on fire. The second happened just south of Willmar in the small town of Roseland. Again, leaves that were burned are suspected of causing the house fire. 

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Caitlyn Beckmann, the owner of the now-destroyed home in Roseland, told BMTN that she never would've burned the leaves had she known fire danger conditions released by the DNR on Monday were "very high." 

Beckmann, like a lot of other people, don't pay attention to fire danger conditions because it's not a mainstream weather hazard in Minnesota.

So how do people go about staying alert to dangerous fire weather? 

1. Visit the DNR website daily

The DNR has a dedicated page for fire conditions, providing daily fire danger levels for every county in Minnesota. It has two maps, one for fire danger levels and another that displays burning restrictions. Here's an example of the two maps. 

As you can see in the key, fire danger levels go from low, moderate, high, very high and extreme. 

Kandiyohi and Meeker Counties were pained in orange for very high danger on Monday when the two homes burned down. 

2. Get a weather radio

The National Weather Service will let you know through a weather radio if a fire weather watch or red flag warning has been issued. Watches mean conditions are elevated and warnings mean the situation is critical. Both mean fires can spread rapidly. 

If the ground and air are dry, all it takes a some gusty winds on a warm day to get a grassfire or wildfire going crazy. 

3. Subscribe to DNR emails, text alerts

Wildfire Prevention Supervisor Casey McCoy tells BMTN that people can sign up for news releases and updates about ever-changing fire conditions.

These are especially helpful on days like Monday when dangerous fire conditions were in place, but not quite high enough to warrant a watch or warning from the NWS. 

"Those days that don't quite reach that threshold but still have high potential for active fire behavior is where people can look at other options," McCoy said. "We send out news releases and information about what's going on or what the conditions are."

You can sign up for email or text alerts from the DNR right here

4. Follow the right Twitter accounts

Follow @MNForestry for frequent updates like this. 

You can also follow @MNICS, which is the Twitter account for the Minnesota Incident Command System. 

5. If it's windy, don't burn anything

"Fire can be so deceptively quiet, and on days when you don't think it can do anything, it can surprise," McCoy says. "You may not have a watch or a warning or be in very high fire danger, but kind of a rule of thumb is if the wind is 15 mph or greater, then maybe there's a better day to go out and do some burning."

Overall, it's rare for homes to burn down the way the two in west-central Minnesota did on Monday, but McCoy warned that "the potential is there a lot more than we would want to admit."

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