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NWS warns of fire danger in central Minn. lakes area

BRAINERD, Minn.—The National Weather Service, based out of Duluth, sent out a warning Wednesday, Nov. 29, of increased risk of fire in the region.

According to the news release, counties and townships across Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin are subject to gusty and dry weather conditions, with winds gusts between 20-30 mph and an afternoon relative humidity lowering between 25-30 percent. Residents are advised to avoid burning and to use caution when discarding burned material.

This warning is a "near critical" warning, to be distinguished from a "red flag" warning, said meteorologist Geoff Crochocincski. While it's somewhat unusual to see conditions revert back from snowy winter weather to clearer, fall-like conditions, he said, increased fire dangers are not uncommon at this time of year.

"You can get fires without hot weather," Grochocinski said in a phone interview, "as long as it's dry and windy and fire can spread rapidly depending on the vegetation. You can still get large fires."

The key factor, he said, is the vulnerable state of vegetation, if it is dry and primed to spread fire quickly. The National Weather Service works in tandem with land management agencies like the DNR and United States Forest Service to determine if the state of vegetation constitutes enough of a risk to raise a warning.

However, these conditions aren't too serious in Grochocinski's estimation. Humidity levels are not dropping as quickly as previously anticipated and the window of heightened risk appears to be closing rapidly.

Cities included in the warning are Walker, Pine River, Hill City, Aitkin, Brainerd, Hinckley, Pine City and Duluth in Minnesota; Superior, Washburn, Bayfield, Ashland, Hurley, Grantsburg, Spooner, Hayward and Phillips in Wisconsin.

According to an extended forecast by the National Weather Service, Sunday is the earliest chance of precipitation, with a small chance of snow before 10 a.m. and possible light rainfall mixed with snow that evening and going into Monday.