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Minnesota

Gravel trails mean access to potential fire areas

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge - 2003

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few urban refuges in the nation, placing it in the heart of the wildland urban interface. Because there are a large number of homes, businesses, and industrial facilities surrounding the refuge, there is a chance that catastrophic wildfire could cause a lot of damage, should it ever strike.

Access roads play a vital role for a safe and efficient initial attack of fire on the refuge. In 2003 the refuge received funding to lay gravel along more than a mile of the Long Meadow Lake Trail. Before these improvements, the trail was impassable when wet. When a wildfire struck neighboring Fort Snelling State Park because of a railroad spark, drought conditions caused the flames to spread quickly spread toward the Minnesota River and threatened the refuge. Favorable weather conditions kept the fire in check, but a few weeks later, a small, human-caused wildfire began on refuge property. Fire personnel from the refuge and the Bloomington fire department suppressed the fire in less than two hours. In both incidents, the improvements to the Long Meadow Lake Trail let firefighters respond quickly to the wildfires. The gravel also helps to prevent compaction of the surrounding meadow caused by vehicles attempting to get around impassable sections of the trail.

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