Crews battle fires in NW Minnesota as drought conditions worsen

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It's been a common occurrence this spring in Minnesota: Large swaths of natural land, scorched by a wildfire that takes hours of manpower to put out.

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The two most recent happened in northwest Minnesota Thursday afternoon.

One blaze broke out near Downer, Minnesota, Thursday afternoon – and nearly every fire crew in Clay County was needed to get them under control, Valley News Live reports.

One grassfire closed Highway 9 just north of Downer for a short time.

It started at a nearby shop, someone was burning things in a barrel and a spark jumped out, WDAY reports.

The other began the same way and happened near Hitterdal, Sgt. Mark Empting of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office told The Forum.

In a 'severe drought'

That blaze started in what's currently Minnesota's most dangerous region for potential fires.

Essentially the entire northwest quadrant of the state is experiencing a severe drought right now, according to the DNR's drought monitor.

Last week, 0 percent of the state was in a severe drought, MPR reports.

Outside of a few smaller spots, the rest of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions.

More than 90 percent of the state is experiencing moderate or severe drought, the DNR says.

Why is it so bad?

According to the DNR, the lack of snow during this past winter, combined with what's been a dry early spring up to this point, has put the state way behind normal when it comes to moisture.

Since October, most of the state is 3-6 inches below average for precipitation.

FOX 9 says it's some of the most extreme drought conditions the state has seen in a few years. Parts of northwestern Minnesota have received just 5 percent the amount of rain they'd normally get.

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