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Wildfires prompt evacuations in Perham, Minn., as flames near homes

PERHAM, Minn. -- Grass fires Thursday near Perham prompted the evacuation of 12 homes and some businesses. No homes or other structures were damaged by the fires, which sprang up in several places near Perham on Thursday morning, according to the...

Perham grass fire
Perham grass fire

PERHAM, Minn. -- Grass fires Thursday near Perham prompted the evacuation of 12 homes and some businesses.

No homes or other structures were damaged by the fires, which sprang up in several places near Perham on Thursday morning, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department.

But flames came to within feet of some homes, Lt. Mike Boen said.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes Thursday afternoon, he said.

It isn't known what started the fires, but Boen said it is possible sparks from a vehicle may have been involved because several fires erupted along the south side of U.S. Highway 10.

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Fire departments from several area communities helped in the firefighting, as did state and federal agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which brought in a helicopter to assist.

The homes evacuated Thursday were a few miles east of Perham.

Several businesses in the area of state Highway 78 and Highway 10 on Perham's south side were also evacuated.

Because of dry conditions, no outdoor burning is allowed in Minnesota without a permit, DNR officials said.

Starting Monday, no outdoor burning will be allowed -- even with a permit -- in many Minnesota counties, including Becker, Otter Tail, Mahnomen and Polk.

Counties with burning bans in place include Hubbard, Wadena and Beltrami.

The DNR urges people to dial 911 when they see a fire, warning that individuals shouldn't try to extinguish wildfires on their own.

Fires can quickly go from being small and innocuous to large and menacing, said Mark Carlstrom, a DNR area forestry supervisor in Park Rapids.

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Carlstrom said most grass fires are started by people who burn debris and don't realize how rapidly a fire can spread and get out of hand.

He said when conditions are this dry, even an overnight rain may not be enough to dampen the fire threat in some areas because it doesn't take much wind and sunshine to dry out combustible plant material.

DNR officials said the fire threat is expected to diminish in four or five weeks when vegetation begins to green up.

The DNR Web site states that the spring fire season began early this year and the agency has already responded to more than 300 fires that have burned nearly 4,200 acres.

Campfires are still allowed and never require burning permits if they are kept to 3 feet in diameter, 30 feet tall and are attended at all times, the DNR stated in a news release.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTYPERHAM
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