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Beltrami County Sheriff's Office: Stop calling 911 about low-flying planes, they're putting out wildfires

Beltrami County has had issues with people in the Bemidji area complaining about firefighting planes this summer.

Stop calling 911 because you're annoyed about low-flying planes around Bemidji — they're working to put out fires. 

That's the message from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, which has had to remind people a few times this summer to give firefighting airplanes their space so they can collect water from Lake Bemidji to fight wildfires.

Related [July 14]: Boaters getting in the way of firefighter planes in Bemidji

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the sheriff's office said if people see planes flying around, they're Minnesota Department of Natural Resources aircraft and are most likely fighting fires. 

"As was the case a few weeks ago in Eckles Township and again today with the fire in Bemidji, our 911 center took complaints on low-flying planes 'disturbing the peace,'" the post said. "These planes are out fighting fires and fly low so they can hit the fires most effectively."

Related [July 15]: Fast-spreading wildfire near Bemidji was 'human-caused,' authorities say

The fire in Bemidji on Tuesday was north of North County Park and burning around 2 acres in the woods, Beltrami County Emergency Management said

DNR airplanes assisted to extinguish the fire, and to do so, they have to fly low to be effective, emergency management said, adding 911 got inquiries about the planes. 

The air firefighting efforts were effective and no evacuations were ordered as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, emergency management added. 

"We are very fortunate to have these planes in Bemidji to help with firefighting. The inconvenience of hearing the planes flying over could be saving lives and property," the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said. 

The job of 911 dispatchers is to answer emergency calls. When dispatchers have to put people who need an ambulance or who are reporting a crime on hold to answer a 911 call from someone who is annoyed about low-flying planes, it ends up delaying the efficiency of emergency services, the sheriff's office stressed. 

There could be more low-flying airplanes around Bemidji in the near future due to continued drought across much of Minnesota. 

"With little rain in the forecast, we are likely to see more wildfires," the sheriff's office said, adding that burning bans and restrictions could become more restrictive in the near future and asks that people "be smart" and avoid any burning.

If there aren't any wildfires, there won't be any low-flying airplanes. 

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