Holiday weekend impacted by burn ban

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(ABC 6 News) – Elevated fire conditions have forced a burn ban for all of Olmsted County until further notice.

A lot of people are out camping for the holiday weekend, but now no campfires are allowed.

No open flames are allowed, except for approved gas or electric grills.

Firefighters say these are unique circumstances, and that bans this time of year are rare.

Cathi Meir and her family are enjoying the last weekend of summer out in Chester Woods near Eyota. They didn’t realize they were doing something that was no longer allowed.

“We had no idea there was a burn ban, but that kinda spoils it for the rest of the weekend, so we’ll have to use the microwave, I guess, which sounds kinda boring,” said Meir.

Just a few sites away, McKenzie Hardtkey was also surprised by the ban. She planned to spend her weekend relaxing around the campfire.

“Hopefully we don’t have any meals to cook over the fire, but otherwise, yeah we’re still gonna enjoy it,” said Hardtkey.

She’s making the most of the weekend despite the burn ban put in effect Friday afternoon. It started in Rochester and then spread to all of Olmsted County.

“Between the drought, the wind, the low humidity, the high temperatures, it has us concerned,” said RFD Chief Eric Kerska.

Olmsted County is under extreme drought. It’s the driest summer in nearly 50 years – perfect conditions for fires to start and spread fast.

“We did notice the dry conditions. I said the people didn’t have to mow the lawn out here this summer very much because it’s so dry,” said Meir.

While campers like Meir and her family are disappointed to miss out on roasting s’mores and hot dogs, they know safety comes first.

“We’ll find alternatives to the campfire,” said Meir.

Officials aren’t sure how long the burn ban will be in place, but they will be monitoring the weather to decide.

Firefighters will put out any open burning they find, but if they find consistent violators of the ban, they will involve law enforcement.