Dry conditions lead to busy weekend for local fire department

Spring Valley firefighters spray down the edge of a burnt field after the standing corn stalks caught fire Friday afternoon. This was the first of four calls over the weekend that the department responded to due to dry, windy conditions. A winter storm hit the area just two weeks ago. DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Spring Valley firefighters had a busy weekend as they were called out four times from Friday to Sunday for fires in area fields.

Even though snow was on the ground less than two weeks ago, conditions reached a critical level so a “fire weather watch” was issued by the National Weather Service for Saturday and Sunday for much of eastern Minnesota, including Fillmore and Mower counties.

Warm temperatures with very low humidity and strong winds, which could cause any fire “to go a long ways,” created the dangerous conditions, said Spring Valley Fire Chief Troy Lange. Also, the late spring prevented new, green growth, adding to the danger of fire spreading.

The watch turned into a “red flag warning” when the southerly winds became even stronger, with gusts up to 35 miles per hour, Sunday afternoon and the humidity was lower than 20 percent.

The series of runs for the Spring Valley Fire Department began Friday about noon when flames from burning brush got away and started a cornfield on fire, said Lange. The field was west of Spring Valley at the junction of County Road 39 and Highway 16.

The department was called out for a mutual aid call with the Ostrander Fire Department for another cornfield fire Saturday. Sunday, they responded to a fire near the old lumber yard in Spring Valley and then for a mutual aid call with the Stewartville Fire Department, which was cancelled en route.

Fires were a problem throughout the entire state as Gov. Mark Dayton authorized the Minnesota National Guard to aid fire departments in fighting wildfires.

Burning restrictions were still in effect for all of southeastern Minnesota on Monday, which was very warm and windy, but the forecast was for rain on Tuesday, which should help alleviate the danger.