Fire at Cedar Creek chars acres of grass and native savanna

by Mike Oakes

A plot of land at the University’s Cedar Creek Natural History Area in East Bethel, Minn., dedicated to testing the effects of grass fires, went ablaze accidentally early Wednesday afternoon.
The fire started in the southern end of the Cedar Creek area and burned for several hours, consuming hundreds of acres of prairie grass.
The charred area is largely Minnesota native savanna and has been subjected to burn tests for more than 35 years.
“(The savanna) has been burnt many times under carefully controlled conditions,” explained Cedar Creek director Clarence Lehman.
He said the area has little fuel — only prairie grass and bur oak trees exist in the savanna — to assist burning. Bur oak trees are fire resistant.
The fire came close to area homes at one point, but, for the most part, stayed within Cedar Creek boundaries. No homes were damaged.
Lehman said Cedar Creek researchers don’t normally perform burn tests in the fall, adding that he was glad no damage was sustained.
Said Lehma, “Any fire can be very dangerous, but if there is to be an accidental grass fire, let it be in an area like this.”

Mike Oakes welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3216.