The first month-and-a-half of 2016 has been particularly deadly in terms of fire deaths in Iowa.

The State Fire Marshall’s office confirms 13 people have perished in their homes with a 14th death from a weekend blaze likely to be added this week.

Spokesperson Ron Humphrey says the numbers are double of those of last year at this time.  Humphrey says half of the fatalities occurred in just two fires in January. Three people died in a home in Montrose in southeast Iowa, and a mother and her three children perished in a blaze in Boxholm just south of Fort Dodge.

Iowa DNR

Beautiful fall weather has extended park visits and camping opportunities around the state for many outdoor enthusiasts. However, increasingly dry conditions have prompted the State Fire Marshall to issue burn bans in nearly a quarter of the state.   The bans include many of the state parks.

courtesy of Nathan Weiner

Nathan Weiner grew up in Iowa City, miles away from any naturally occurring wildfires. But after using controlled burns to restore Iowa landscape, he made his way out West.

"Whether it was burning a prairie or burning a woodland, we used prescribed fire to help that get back to its natural state, and once we started doing that, I just got bit by the fire bug, as they call it."

Why do farmers burn their fields?

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

Jimmy Emerson / jimmywayne

Residents of Northwood are back in their homes after being asked to evacuate yesterday due to an explosion and fire at the city's municipal airport.  Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell discusses which bills in the legislature might become laws in 2014.  The Blank Park Zoo's Amur tiger has died, and what Iowa City is doing about a recent rash of sexual assaults in taxicabs.  Also, an Olympics update from the Des Moines Register's sports columnist Bryce Miller in Sochi.