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In Stearns County, two grass fires in three days

As a driver tried to rev his way out of a ditch for over an hour, the grass caught on fire
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Authorities in Stearns County battled two grass fires in recent, after a period of particularly dry conditions that increased the risk of wildfire.

In St. Wendel township, a resident on Jenny Lane burned some brush Thursday evening. After dousing it, he left it overnight. 

When the 37-year-old man checked on the brush remnants Friday morning, he noticed some smoke and poured additional water before leaving for work, he told authorities, according to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office press release. 

Around noon, a neighbor called to alert him that the "brush pile in his back yard had started the swamp/wetland area on fire," the release said. 

With a lack of substantial rainfall in recent weeks and high winds, conditions were ripe for fire, said Stearns County Sheriff's Office Captain Jon Lentz, adding the homeowner did not acquire a permit to burn. 

Much of southwestern Minnesota was on a fire warning last week because of these conditions, though the Stearns County area wasn't included in the advisory. 

"The homeowner here did take some steps to see if it was out," Lentz said. "You should take the added steps of getting a rake, moving the embers around ... douse it with water a few times, make sure you're getting all the hot spots." 

In the early morning hours Monday, the sheriff's office responded to another grass fire involving a vehicle at the intersection of 215th Street and 23rd Avenue in St. Augusta. 

Several acres of grassland had been burned, deputies found, prompting St. Augusta Fire, Rockville Fire and Clearwater Fire to arrive to douse it. 

Per police, a St. Paul man was driving when the brakes in his Toyota went out, sending him into a ditch. As he tried to drive his way out for about 90 minutes, Lentz said the tall grass likely found its way into engine, eventually igniting with the high heat. 

"You have to be aware of what the current conditions are around you," Lentz said. "It's not going to take too long if you're over-revving or going hard on the engine for that heat to build up ... If you've got a lot of vegetation stuck up underneath there, sooner or later, it's going to ignite." 

No injuries were reported from either fire. 

The 1996 red Toyota Tercel

The 1996 red Toyota Tercel

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