Preventing wildfires

Preparing for wildfire: what you can do in a weekend

It’s late August. The days are noticeably shorter, southerly bird migration has begun, and (gasp!) kids will be going back to school soon. You’re probably also noticing that your bounty of flowering plants is looking a bit ragged. To help shorten your list of fall clean-up chores, get a jump on things now! Your property will also be in better condition should a wildfire occur in your area.

Resident remove dead branches from around their home to reduce their risk should a wildfire occure in their area.

Removing dead trees, branches and shrubs from around you home can help reduce your wildfire risk should a wildfire occur in your area.

While we see most Wisconsin wildfire activity in the spring, fires can occur any time of the year when snow is not on the ground. We see spikes in occurrence in summer during dry spells and again in autumn when the leaves fall and the ground vegetation cures. All this dry matter can become fuel for a wildfire. Removing this debris is particularly important if you live or own property in a community at risk. In short, these are areas where sandy soils, oaks and pine trees are abundant.

What can you do? Start with the area immediately around your home and work outwards from there. Cut back the flowering plants that have faded and compost the debris. Remove any dead trees, branches or shrubs. If you have evergreens around your home, look at how close they are to one another. Evergreens are especially flammable; consider removing any trees necessary to keep at least 15 feet between the branches from tree to tree within 30 feet of buildings. Prune lower branches up and away from the ground. Check your town’s website for info on timing of curbside brush pick-up or brush collection site hours. These types of services are generally offered on a limited basis, so don’t miss out! For more info on ways to prepare your home for wildfire, check out our website!

Burning Questions: Is my campfire really a campfire?

The first step in campfire safety is to understand the difference between a campfire and a fire to dispose of debris.

A campfire is kept small and used for cooking or warming.

A campfire is kept small and used for cooking or warming.

• Campfires are solely for warming or cooking purposes, are smaller in size and comprised of clean and dry wood, contained within a designated fire ring or surrounded by rocks. Campfires are allowed anytime, except when Emergency Burning Restrictions are in effect.

 

Burning in a fire ring with the intent to eliminate debris is not a campfire.

Burning in a fire ring with the intent to eliminate debris is not a campfire.

 

 

• Burning in a fire ring with the intent to eliminate debris is NOT a campfire and does require a burning permit in DNR protection areas.  A permit can be obtained from your local Emergency Fire Warden, or from the website http://dnr.wi.gov keyword “burn”, or by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876).

 

No matter what type of outdoor fire you have, check the daily burning restrictions for your area before ignition and never leave a fire unattended.  Don’t forget that embers can remain hot for days after the fire has burned down to ashes, so make sure to use plenty of water and stir the ashes to ensure they are out cold.  Remember, you may be held responsible for all suppression costs and potentially any damages associated if your fire escapes.

Fireworks cause forest fires

Fireworks can cause wildfiresThe Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources urges people to take precautions and prevent wildfires caused by fireworks now and during the next few weeks.  Most wildfires caused by fireworks occur around the July 4th holiday or under extended drought conditions, but the reality is, wildfires can occur anytime the ground is not completely snow-covered.

Exploding fireworks, such as firecrackers, m-70’s, bottle rockets, and roman candles, cause the most fireworks-caused wildfires.  Paired with hot and dry weather, even sparklers and fountains pose a significant threat in dry grassy areas.  Anyone responsible for starting a wildfire in Wisconsin is liable not only for the cost of putting the fire out, but also for any damages.

Fireworks are restricted in Wisconsin and permits may be required.  It’s best to check with local officials before purchasing and lighting them. A city, village, town or county may also enact an ordinance more strictly limiting fireworks sales or possessing them.

In addition, the DNR does prohibit the use of all fireworks on state lands including state parks, state forests and state owned public hunting and fishing properties.  Anyone planning on camping in a Wisconsin state park or forest for the Fourth of July should enjoy fireworks displays in nearby communities — not at picnic areas, campsites or other areas within state parks, forests and trails.

As of the last week of June, fire dangers levels throughout Wisconsin were low across the state, but even in low fire danger times, fireworks can start wildfires. So far in 2018, DNR records show nearly 700 wildfires have burned more over 1,800 acres in DNR fire protection areas of Wisconsin. Wildfires caused by fireworks only amount to 5 percent of the annual total; however, these fires typically occur in a condensed timeframe around the Fourth of July holiday.

For more information about how to prevent wildfires from fireworks, visit the DNR homepage at dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “wildfire causes.”

Time together means time to talk wildfire

Adams County Association Meeting

Property owners at an annual association meeting in Adams County test their wildfire knowledge.

Do you have a meeting or event with your neighborhood association this summer?  If your area is at risk to wildfire then this is a great opportunity to raise awareness of fire risk, educate people about local burning restrictions and review actions people can take to prepare their properties ahead of the flames.  Learn more at dnr.wi.gov, search “fire”.

Wildfire danger begins to change with weather conditions

Wildfire danger starts to decrease as vegetation greens up and we get regular rainfall.

Wildfire danger starts to change as the vegetation greens up and we get regular rainfall.

Green up of vegetation and regular rains have kept fire danger Low to Moderate in southern Wisconsin. Fire danger ranged from Moderate to Very High in northern Wisconsin. The progression of green up statewide and predicted rain over the weekend is expected to quell the fire danger even further. Over the past week, 72 wildfires burned 147 acres in DNR Protection Areas. Recent wildfire causes have been equipment, debris burning, fireworks, power line, railroad and campfires.

Firewise Tip: Make sure campfires are made in a fire-safe pit or container. Clear an area 10 feet around the fire pit and never burn when it’s windy. Before leaving, drown your campfire thoroughly with water, stir the ashes and add more water until it’s out cold.

This concludes the wildfire report until conditions cause the fire danger to rise. As a recap, 639 wildfires burned 1,802 acres this spring; 53 structures were destroyed and another 441 were threatened, but saved with firefighter assistance. Be mindful of the weather and any drying conditions as we head into summer. Stay informed of statewide fire danger by checking our Fire web page as a part your outdoor work and recreation routine.

Homes can survive a wildfire!

The Pleasant Valley Fire in Eau Claire Co. occurred on April 30th, burned 122 acres and 1 structure. Fortunately, 19 structures were threatened and saved.

The Pleasant Valley Fire in Eau Claire Co. occurred on April 30th, burned 122 acres and 1 structure. Fortunately, 19 structures were threatened and saved.

With fire season still lingering in the north, the DNR has reported 53 structures destroyed by wildfires so far this year.  The good news is, 439 were also threatened yet saved with firefighter assistance.

To find out if your home or cabin is a high wildfire risk area, ask yourself these questions: Is your place surrounded by oak or pine trees? Are your rain gutters full of pine needles? Is your lawn covered with leaves? Is there a Smokey Bear fire danger sign in your community?

 

 

You can help firefighters better protect your home and property by making simple changes to reduce wildfire risk.

You can help firefighters better protect your home and property by making simple changes to reduce wildfire risk.

If you answered “yes,” you might have some work to do! As we head into the long weekend, grab a rake and gloves, and take a peek at ways you can prepare your property for wildfire.  Avoid burning by hauling the debris to a brush & leaf drop-off site or compost the material. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/preparing.html

Fire danger ranges from Low to Extreme

Statewide fire danger ranged from Low to Extreme this week, depending on progression of green-up and rainfall received; 68 fires burned 141 acres in DNR Protection Areas. The largest fire of the week was the “White River Fire” in Bayfield County which burned 42 acres and was caused by a campfire. The main fire causes this week were debris burning (e.g., brush, leaves, trash, burn barrel, broadcast burning) and equipment (e.g., vehicle exhaust, sparks from tow chains dragging, farm disking machine).

People are urged to continue to use caution with all types of outdoor burning, campfires, ash disposal and equipment use. Property owners are reminded to remain present when burning debris in a barrel or on the ground – should your fire escape, you can be held responsible for the cost of fire suppression and any damages resulting from the escaped fire. Clear an area around the pile or barrel and make sure a hose is attached to a working spigot. Wet down the burned area before leaving. Stay aware of the current fire danger for your area by checking our website: dnr.wi.gov, keyword “fire”.

Firewise Tip: Practice safe towing. Chains dragging on the road can ignite dry grass along the road. Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains. If you need to stop and check what you’re towing, do not pull your vehicle over dry grass – hot exhaust and mufflers can start fires.

Wildfire Report

Tractor plow on White Birch Fire in Dunbar, WI

White Birch Fire in Dunbar, WI

Statewide fire danger ranged from Low to Very High this past week. 88 fires burned 156 acres in DNR Protection Areas; 12 buildings were destroyed and another 30 were threatened, but saved with firefighter assistance. The main wildfire causes this week were debris burning and equipment. The largest fire of the week burned 27 acres in Langlade County, caused by a campfire.

People are urged to continue to use caution with all types of outdoor burning, ash disposal and equipment use.  Property owners are reminded to remain present when burning debris in a barrel or on the ground – should your fire escape, you can be held responsible for the cost of fire suppression and any damages resulting from the escaped fire.  Clear an area around the pile or barrel and make sure a hose is attached to a working spigot. Wet down the burned area before leaving. Stay aware of the current fire danger for your area by checking our website: dnr.wi.gov, keyword “fire”.

Germann Road Fire Photo

Germann Road Fire

May 14 marks the 5th anniversary of the Germann Road Fire that burned 7,442 acres and 100 buildings (including 22 homes and cabins) in Douglas County.

Firewise Tip: Are there any branches or dead trees close to power lines near your property?  Ask the power company to clear them.

Five-Year Anniversary of the Germann Road fire

5-Year Anniversary commemorating the Germann Road FIreWhile spring is always much-welcomed after Wisconsin’s long winters, seasonal warm and dry conditions can result in increased wildfire activity.  Northwest Wisconsin is taking a moment to highlight and remember the efforts that went into battling the historic Germann Road Fire as well as the recovery efforts still going on today by hosting an open forum on May 12, 2018.  There will be a brief presentation about the fire, as well as what the burnt area looks like today as the community and landscape continues to recover.

Tractor plow on the Germann Road Fire in 2013

Tractor plow on the Germann Road Fire in 2013

On May 14, 2013, logging equipment sparked the Germann Road Fire in Douglas County that resulted in 7,499 acres burned and numerous structures lost before crossing into Bayfield County.  Light rain moved through the area that morning dampening only the fine surface vegetation for a fleeting period.  When the sun broke through the clouds, the landscape rapidly dried out becoming a prime receptor for a spark.  At 2:45 pm, Brule DNR dispatch started a response that would last the next two days.  The fire threatened approximately 450 structures and destroyed 104, including 23 primary residences before being declared contained on May 15.

Germann Road Fire photo from the air

Germann Road Fire

One-hundred sixty-seven Wisconsin DNR personnel with 32 tractor plows, 5 heavy bulldozers and 100 fire engines worked feverishly to contain the fire, while 44 fire departments protected structures threatened by fire.  This was the largest use of aircraft for fire suppression purposes on a fire in Wisconsin’s history.  Thirteen aircraft including both fixed-wing and helicopters supported the efforts of ground crews.

Germann Road Fire PhotoIn the years following, many of the homes and buildings have been rebuilt, yet some remain as a constant reminder of the fire-prone environment in northwest Wisconsin.  Vast expanses of burnt forest have been opened giving way to new life on the landscape.  In areas where tall pines once stood young seedlings are taking hold and reclaiming the ashes.

Please join the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff  and other first responders at the Barnes Town Hall on Saturday, May 12, 2018 from 10:00 am until noon to learn more about the Germann Road Fire and the recovery that continues today.  Barnes Town Hall is located at 3360 County Highway N, Barnes, WI 54873.

Contact Ben Garrett, Wildland Urban Interface Specialist, for more information about this event. (715) 635-4088.  For more information on Wildfire in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov search “fire.”

Follow Smokey’s lead, check the fire danger

Smokey Bear FishingBefore you fry up that big catch over a campfire this weekend, follow Smokey’s Lead and check the fire danger.  The fishing opener is upon us and another round of dry weather is in the forecast.  Fire officials are gearing up for a busy weekend, especially in northern WI.  Before you hit the lakes, secure trailer chains, check tire pressure and maintain brakes to avoid sparks.  If you are planning to do some clean up around the yard or simply have a campfire with friends, follow the daily restrictions and make sure any permitted fires are completely out.  In the last week, the DNR responded to over 160 wildfires, mostly caused by debris burning.