While flooding persists in parts of Minnesota including the northwest, warm temperatures and dry conditions have increased risk of wildfires farther south, so the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday said it will restrict open burning in the following counties effective immediately: Anoka, Benton, Chisago, Douglas, Grant, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Pope, Ramsey, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Todd, Traverse, Washington, and Wright.

The state will not issue burning permits for brush or yard waste in these counties until restrictions are lifted.

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"Escaped debris burns are the number one cause of wildfires, so that's why we issue these restrictions," said Casey McCoy, DNR fire prevention supervisor. "They really work - we've reduced wildfires by nearly a third since we started spring burning restrictions in 2001."

McCoy encourages residents to use alternatives to burning, such as composting, chipping or taking brush to a collection site. For information on how to compost yard debris, visit the DNR's guide to composting yard debris.

People who burn debris will be held financially responsible if their fire escapes and burns other property.

The DNR will adjust burning restrictions and extend restrictions to additional counties as conditions change. For information and daily updates on current fire risk and open burning restrictions, visit the Minnesota DNR website at www.mndnr.gov.