WINTER FIRE SAFETY: Outdoor Brush Burning

Winter may seem like a perfectly safe time to burn, but it’s important to practice fire safety year-round to prevent wildfires. When the ground is entirely snow-covered, burning is permitted in DNR Protection Areas without a DNR burning permit for debris piles. As soon as the snow melts, DNR burning permits are required again. Always check with local fire officials before conducting any burning, especially in the spring.

Snow amounts vary across the landscape this time of year. The southern half of the state tends to have little to no snow, while the north looks like a winter wonderland. Just when you think winter is coming to an end, there’s that one lingering snowstorm to make everything white again. Suddenly, spring is finally here to stay, and it’s fire season!

Here are some tips for safe winter burning when the ground is snow-covered:

Winter Burning• Gather and pile brush in an open area away from over-hanging branches.
• If snow is in the forecast, place a tarp over the brush pile to keep it dry and time the burn, so the snow around the pile keeps the fire contained.
• When ready to burn, choose a calm day (less than 8 mph) with complete snow-cover on the ground.
• Snow must be next to the fire and stay there for the duration of the burn.
• Notify the local fire department and dispatch offices to avoid unnecessary fire response.
• Place small amounts of crumpled clean paper into the brush around the base of the pile.
• Light the paper all around the base of the pile. Do not use the fire to dispose of household garbage, rubber tires, oil or other accelerants.
• Using a rake or shovel, turn the debris into the flames to ensure all the materials are consumed.
• Avoid standing in direct contact or downwind of smoke and never leave the fire unattended.

Remember, spring is the peak of Wisconsin’s fire season. So, plan ahead and don’t wait until then to conduct debris burning. Better yet, consider alternatives to burning; compost, chip, leave brush for wildlife habitat or haul away to a transfer site. To obtain a free DNR burning permit or for more fire safety tips, visit this DNR website.

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