DNR officials work to prevent wildfires in Minnesota

The California Camp Fire is now the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet Fire happened a century ago in Minnesota.

Experts say it’s not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when and where a wildfire will occur. 

“Fire belongs in the landscape like rain or wind or sunlight,” said Casey McCoy, DNR fire prevention supervisor.

Fire’s occurrence is a natural part of many environments as nature’s way of cleaning up. 

“If you have periodic burns, it keeps that fuel layer down, the heavier stuff down,” said McCoy. “It also helps recycle those nutrients to help that next generation of plants that are growing in that area.”

However, as more people move into fire prone areas, prescribed fires to help natural cleanup become more difficult. 

“Our challenge is the presence of homes in places they weren’t before, the sensitivity to smoke we create when we do prescribe fire,” said McCoy.

Experts say protection starts with active timber management and defensible space around homes because there’s no control over how the weather may impact a fire’s spread.

“The Camp Fire had a forward speed at times of over 100 miles per hour,” said Ian Leonard, Fox 9 Chief Meteorologist.

The Camp Fire is now the deadliest since the Cloquet Fire of 1918, which was fueled by high temperatures and high winds. 

“So not only is it dry, tinder dry, and dry ravished, but then were rolling in some very hot, very dry winds,” said Leonard. “It’s just an explosive situation.” 

Minnesota may not be as hot or dry, but history has proved that fires happen here, too. 

“There are weather days where Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature is going to do, and we can just watch, more or less, and get out of the way,” said McCoy. “But in a number of instances, the planning and preparation in advance can go toward reducing the number of lives and structures lost in wildfires.”