Weather Forecast


Firefighters from multiple communities do battle with blaze near Sunburg, Minn.

Sunburg firefighters battle a stubborn grass fire Friday west of Sunburg that tore through tall grass and shrubs in a wildlife area, as well as farm fields that had corn stubble. Two farm sites were in the path of the fire. Firefighters from Sunburg, Brooten, Pennock and New London were at the scene. The Sunburg ambulance was also called to assist. One firefighter was seen coughing and vomiting near the fire as thick smoke enveloped the area. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Dry, windy conditions helped fuel a large grass fire southeast of Sunburg Friday afternoon that charred 160 to 200 acres.

The fire broke out shortly before noon in a farm field along 210th Avenue west of Norway Lake. Mike Gjerde, Sunburg fire chief, said the cause wasn't entirely clear but that it was likely sparked by tractor exhaust while the landowner was tilling a field of last year's cornstalks.

The blaze spread rapidly, Gjerde said. "It didn't take long to grow from 10 acres to 100 acres in a matter of 10-15 minutes... It was moving. It was fast."

Strong winds helped push the fire along. At a couple of points it jumped a township road and began burning on the other side of the road.

The blaze also spread into some trees and wetlands, making for difficult firefighting conditions, Gjerde said.

The Sunburg Fire Department was joined by firefighting crews from the New London, Pennock and Brooten fire departments. The Willmar Fire Department and the local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also brought in off-road vehicles to help firefighters reach the flames.

Gjerde said it took four hours to bring the fire under control.

Lack of rain, coupled with a warm and early spring, has created a high fire risk across much of Minnesota. State officials warned Friday that fire danger will be extremely high this weekend because of high winds and low humidity.

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch which is in effect from 1 to 8 p.m. today across the western third of the state. Strong west winds at 25 to 30 mph are in the forecast this afternoon, along with low humidity. Counties in the fire weather watch area include Kandiyohi, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

A burning ban is in effect across most of the state.

On Wednesday in Meeker County, a grass fire burned more than 100 acres of grassland and swamp in rural Darwin. The Meeker County Sheriff's Office said the landowner was later cited for burning without a permit.

Extreme caution is needed, Gjerde said. "Hopefully it rains. We need rain badly."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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