Thursday, February 27, 2014

Commerce Department Reminds Minnesotans to Stay Safe About Heating

SAINT PAUL, MN – With continued bitterly cold weather – the coldest winter three decades – not only has it taken a toll on home budgets, but also homeowners may look to alternate heat sources to stay warm.  The Minnesota Department of Commerce, however, urges Minnesotans to be safe about space heaters and carbon monoxide as the deep freeze continues across the state.

“We are reminding everyone to stay safe during Minnesota’s extreme cold weather,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.  “The sub-zero temperatures and high heating costs have created very hard times for many Minnesotans.  Now is the time to review safety to protect families and seek financial assistance which is available for many eligible households struggling to make ends meet.”  

Use Alternative Heat Sources Safely
The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources such as space heaters.

·         Keep anything flammable -- including pets and people -- at least three feet away from heating equipment.

·         Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.

·         Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

·         Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

·         Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.

·         Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.

·         Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.

·         Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

·         Make sure CO detectors are working throughout your home; Minnesota law requires CO alarms in every single family and multifamily dwelling.

·         Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances each year to ensure they are adequately vented and properly maintained. CO testing should be part of the inspection.

·         Make sure furnace exhaust vents, air intake hoods, and chimneys are clear of snow and ice in order to keep the heat on and prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning.

·         Do not idle cars in garages, either attached or unattached, for any length of time. In both cases, start your car and exit the garage immediately. Dangerously high levels of CO will accumulate even if the garage door is open.

·         Provide adequate ventilation when using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.

·         Portable propane camping equipment and gas barbecues are approved for outdoor use only. Never use them inside cabins, tents, fish houses, or other enclosed shelters.

·         If your car is stuck in snow, make sure that the tail pipe is cleared before starting the engine.

·         During power outages, do not use gasoline engines or burn charcoal in enclosed spaces, including garages, even if the door is open.

·         Never use kitchen stoves, gasoline heaters, or other alternative methods to heat your home if running into financial hardship.  Please contact the Department of CommerceEnergy Assistance Program to learn how you can apply for assistance to pay home heating costs.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Minnesotans who need financial assistance to pay heating bills may find help through the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Department of Commerce administers LIHEAP in Minnesota, which helps low income households, especially those with seniors, children, veterans and people with disabilities with their heating bill.

Earlier this month, Governor Dayton increased the eligibility for LIHEAP assistance.  Minnesota households earning less than 60% of the state median income are eligible for energy assistance.  The expansion of the program now means that, for example, families of four earning less than $52,370 a year or a home of two earning less than $35,612 are now eligible.

In addition, the Commerce Department increased Crisis Benefits from $500 to $1,000 for Minnesotans heating their homes with propane and heating oil and changed the eligibility requirement from a propane tank at less than 20% full to less than 30% full to ensure timely delivery of fuel before tanks reach critical levels.

To apply for energy assistance, visit the Energy Assistance section of the Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources website or by calling 1-800-657-3710.  Consumers will be connected to the local service provider in their community for additional information and the energy assistance application.

Propane Assistance

Minnesotans affected by the propane shortage in need of financial assistance or concerns about pricing can call the Propane Emergency Hotline at (800) 657-3504 in Greater Minnesota or (651) 297-1304 in the Twin Cities.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2013 fishing licenses expire Feb. 28

Anglers are reminded that 2013 fishing licenses expire on Friday, Feb. 28, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Fishing licenses for 2014 now are available from DNR license agents, online at and by telephone at 888-665-4236. All 2014 fishing licenses become effective Saturday, March 1.

Customers who purchase online via smartphone won’t receive a conventional paper license. Instead, they’ll receive a text message or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers.
Ice shelter permits for 2013 remain effective through Wednesday, April 30.

Learn how to make maple syrup at Minnesota state parks

Tap into a sweet Minnesota tradition by learning how to make maple syrup at Minnesota state parks this spring. Naturalists will demonstrate the process at free programs in March and early April, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“We’ll teach you how to identify the right kind of tree, drill a hole for a spile, collect sap in a bucket and then boil it until it’s tasty enough to pour on your pancakes,” said Kao Thao, naturalist at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, where maple-syrup-making demonstrations will take place on four of the five weekends in March. “Once you see how it’s done, it’s easy to do it yourself in your own backyard.”

Generally, sap runs best from about March 15 to April 20, when temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s during the day and below freezing at night. It usually takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to get a gallon of pure maple syrup.

The maple syrup programs at Minnesota state parks are free, but vehicle permits are required to enter the parks ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit). Some parks encourage dropping by any time to watch ongoing demonstrations, others offer more structured, step-by-step instruction. Due to space limitations, some programs also require advance registration.

For more information, including the complete 2014 maple syrup program schedule, visit ( or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ice fishing shelter removal dates approaching

Snow, cold and a slow bite has some ice anglers removing permanent fish houses from Minnesota waterways earlier than normal, report conservation officers (CO) with the Department of Natural Resources.

Dark houses, fish houses and portables must be off the ice of inland waters no later than 11:59 p.m. on March 3 in the southern two-thirds of the state and 11:59 p.m. on March 17 in the northern third. Conservation officers in Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Evansville and Wadena are reporting that ice shacks are being removed from the ice now in preparation for the removal deadlines.

“Some anglers are using the slow fishing and ease of getting around on the lakes to remove their houses,” said CO Chris Vinton of Detroit Lakes.

“Ice anglers are out, but many anglers are removing permanent houses because of difficult conditions and a slow bite,” said CO Randy Posner of Brainerd.

There are other reasons ice anglers are pulling their sheds off the ice.

“A cold winter has cemented some houses into the ice, requiring hours of prying, chiseling and pulling necessary to remove them,” said Maj. Roger Tietz, DNR Enforcement operations support manager, and an avid ice angler. “Some ice anglers are trying to get ahead of that by removing permanent shelters now.”

The March 3 removal deadline applies to waters south of a line starting at the Minnesota-North Dakota border near Moorhead along U.S. Highway 10, then east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border near Duluth. The March 17 deadline applies to waters north of that line.

Conservation officers patrolling the Detroit Lakes area advise fish shelter owners along Highway 10 to pay special attention to the deadlines.

“A line runs down Highway 10 from Fargo/Moorhead to Detroit Lakes; then it's Highway 34 from Detroit Lakes,” said Vinton. Fish shelters located north of that line have to be off the ice no later than midnight, March 17.

For border waters, the shelter removal deadlines are: Minnesota - Iowa, Feb. 20; Minnesota - Wisconsin, March 1; Minnesota - North Dakota and South Dakota, March 5; Minnesota - Canada, March 31.

Those not removing shelters will be prosecuted. Conservation officers may remove the structure and confiscate or destroy it. It is also unlawful to store or leave a shelter at a public access.

After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied or attended.

It is unlawful to improperly dispose of ice fishing shacks anywhere in the state. Anglers should check with local refuse providers or landfills for disposal.