by Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist, Wisconsin DNR
It’s no surprise that the number one cause of wildfires in Wisconsin is from human carelessness. What is surprising is that the peak of fire season is in the spring, shortly after the snow-cover disappears and just before vegetation greens-up. Many individuals this time of year are outdoors burning leaves, brush and pine needles from their annual yard clean-up. All too often, this method of debris disposal can spark a wildfire.
This lawn mower caused a wildfire while operating on dry vegetation during elevated fire conditions. Proper maintenance could have prevented this fire.
The reality is, there are numerous other ways a wildfire can occur, such as campfires, fireworks and ashes from woodstoves. A close second behind debris burning is equipment. Nearly 20% of all wildfires in Wisconsin are caused by activities such as logging and farm operations, hot exhaust systems from vehicles, recreational vehicles, such as ATV’s or motorcycles, operating without spark arresters or even simple things like dragging chains from trailers.
Most of these fires can be prevented by doing routine maintenance on equipment to ensure machinery is clean from debris or carbon build-up and checking tire pressure and brakes to avoid metal-to-metal contact. Taking the time to look around before parking hot exhaust systems or pipes in dry, grassy areas can also make a difference. And, getting an early start with any logging and farm operations during times of elevated fire danger. This can greatly decrease your chances of starting a wildfire since temperatures are warmer, humidity decreases and winds are gustier in the afternoon which can lead to rapid fire spread. Continue reading “Wildfire prevention week – spark a change, not a wildfire”
A Smokey Bear sighting in Oneida County this week. This highly recognizable symbol of fire prevention has finally awakened from hibernation, just in time for ‘Wildfire Prevention Week,’ April 15-21. Spring is Wisconsin’s peak season for wildfires. Warm, windy and dry conditions have resulted in over 160 wildfires in the southern half of the state this year, as the snow-melt is slowly progressing to the north. Don’t worry. Smokey is very approachable, friendly and loves to give bear hugs. Do your part to help Smokey by getting a free DNR burning permit and making sure those fires are out before you leave. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/index.asp
by: Catherine Koele, DNR wildfire prevention specialist
Rooted deep in Wisconsin’s forest fire control history, the Emergency Fire Warden (EFW) program is a long-standing partnership that has benefitted the State of Wisconsin since the turn of the century. While the role and number of EFWs has changed significantly over time, evolving from detection and suppression duties to the current role of mainly issuing burning permits, a few of those iconic ‘fire warden’ signs continue to hang on fence posts in small, rural communities throughout Wisconsin.
Historically, emergency fire wardens played an important role in preventing, detecting and suppressing wildfires. Photo taken in 1955 near Park Falls, WI.
Since 1885, Wisconsin’s emergency fire wardens have been on the front line of forest fire control, promoting fire prevention and helping to fight fires. Fire wardens were expected to post fire warnings, prohibit burning during dry months and report on fires. Fire wardens were often the first to report forest fires to the local fire departments and ranger stations. They also organized, hired and served on fire-fighting crews.
Men and women from all walks of life volunteered to become emergency fire wardens; farmers, shopkeepers, mechanics, teachers, tavern owners, loggers, paper mill employees, retired couples and many others. In addition to fighting fires, they were asked to issue burning permits and keep track of who was burning and where, in case a fire was to get out of control. Continue reading “The honored role of the emergency fire warden, yesterday and today”
Fire season is just beginning. Each year an estimated 1,100 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas (about half the state, generally the more forested areas) and another estimated 2,500 wildfires burn in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders. Two-thirds of these fires occur in spring. There is a great deal of dry vegetation and fallen leaves and other debris present this time of year, which is quick to dry out. Accompanied by warmer weather, drops in humidity and gusty winds, wildfires can quickly ignite and spread. So far this year, 57 fires have occurred in DNR Protection Areas. Main fire causes have been debris burning and equipment. Fourteen homes and 12 outbuildings have been threatened by these fires and 3 outbuildings have been destroyed.
Continue reading “Gear Up for Fire Season”
The 60 Wisconsin DNR personnel and six engines that helped on out-of-state wildland fires this summer created a win-win scenario for all involved.
Public Information Officer Catherine Koele addresses a community group regarding a fire on the Lolo National Forest in Montana.
Not only was the assistance of tremendous value on the 14 fires in six states and two Canadian provinces, but these assignments provided valuable training and experience for DNR employees in working together for extended periods of time under less-than-ideal conditions and in dealing with forest fire safety situations in large fire environments. The assignments provide employees an opportunity to obtain and maintain their forest firefighting qualifications and credentials. They also allow us to demonstrate and test our equipment and tactics in large fire situations not available in Wisconsin every year.
This sharing of resources is crucial given that no single agency can afford to have all of the personnel and equipment necessary to fight forest fires during peak activity times. Wisconsin routinely uses air resources and personnel from other agencies for assistance during our spring forest fire season.
The valuable training and experience gained by our staff greatly benefits the state of Wisconsin and its ability to respond to local forest fires and provides the requesting agency well-trained staff and equipment to help manage their wildland fire incidents. Truly a win-win scenario!
Wisconsin has already had more than 200 wildfires in 2017 since the snow-cover disappeared with the potential of more before vegetation greens up and the fire danger subsides.
More than 98 percent of all wildfires in Wisconsin are caused by people. The majority of these fires result from careless burning of debris on the ground in piles or burn barrels. Something as simple as getting a burning permit or being aware of the daily fire danger can prevent a wildfire.
Find out which counties have suspended burning permits and witness real-time fire activity by visiting dnr.wi.gov and enter keyword “fire.” To see the DNR fire control ‘gearing up for fire season,’ visit the DNR homepage and watch the short video of all the efforts it takes protect Wisconsin’s valuable resources.
Read more in this news release or contact Wildfire Prevention Specialist Catherine Koele (email@example.com), 715-356-5211 x208 (office), 608-219-9075 (cell).
Fire departments in 196 Wisconsin communities will receive a total of $645,487 in grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Forest Fire Protection Grant Program in 2016. The funding can be used for equipment, prevention, and training to enhance forest fire protection and suppression ability. This grant program was established in 1997 to strengthen the capacity of local fire departments and county or area fire organizations to assist the DNR forestry staff in suppression of forest fires. Here’s a complete list of 2016 FFP grant recipients [PDF]. Read more in this news release or on the DNR website, keyword grants.
For more information, contact Chris Klahn (firstname.lastname@example.org), DNR cooperative fire control specialist, 608- 297-2214.
High fire risk communities are eligible to receive grant funds for projects to reduce ‘fuels,’ such as this brush chipping project in Juneau County.
Between July 15 and October 15, WDNR staff and our partners in fire management are able to submit Wildfire Risk Reduction (WRR) project applications. A packet of application materials, which includes guidelines, Frequently Asked Questions and the application, were emailed to WDNR Area Forestry Leaders, Wildland Urban Interface Specialists and State Forest Supervisors July 1 for wider distribution through their local networks. Continue reading “Wildfire risk reduction applications due Oct 15”
Keeping an ecosystem healthy includes management for wildlife habitat, aesthetics, soil and water quality, native biological diversity, recreational opportunities and forest products. One important component of sustainable forestry is the periodic harvesting of trees. In addition to providing forest products, supporting the local economy, and enhancing wildlife habitat, a benefit of timber harvests can also provide protection from wildfire. The spread of wildfire can be minimized by the removal of lower limbs of conifers and small trees near larger conifers reducing chances of a fire climbing into the crowns or tops of existing trees. In addition, the creation of logging roads or “fuel breaks” can slow or stop a fire and allow fire suppression crews easy access for suppression crews easy access for suppression and mop-up. Learn about many other benefits of harvesting trees here.