Fire season

Forests And Fire: If You Love The Outdoors, This Is The Career For You!

Have you ever thought about getting paid to help protect and manage our forests? Finding your path to becoming a forester with wildland firefighting responsibilities starts with loving the outdoors and, of course, TREES! If this field interests you, it’s never too early to start planning your career.

Besides knowing about trees and forestry practices, you need to learn about other parts of the forest ecosystem. We wouldn’t have trees without soil, so some foresters study soil science. And we wouldn’t have soil without rocks and wind and rain and ice, so some study geology and meteorology. And we wouldn’t have big bucks if it weren’t for properly managed forests, so knowing about birds, insects and all kinds of animals is also important for foresters.

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Did You Know These Things About Fire Season?

Spring Is The Most Critical Fire Season In Wisconsin

March through May, Wisconsin’s snow line recedes, winds and temperature increase and plentiful brown grasses, pine needles and leaf litter receptive to fire across the landscape. This combination is the perfect cocktail for wildfires to occur. Add people conducting spring clean-up around their property by burning yard debris to the mix, resulting in many wildfires. 

Planning For The Weather

For most of us, planning for the weather on any day may mean dressing in layers or carrying an umbrella. Measuring the width of the brown band on a woolly bear caterpillar is considered by some to be more reliable than the TV meteorologist.

Planning for the weather takes on a whole new meaning for the men and women involved in wildfire management. They measure various aspects of weather to help determine the likelihood of a wildfire starting and predict how it will behave.

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Know Your Wildfire Risk

Research shows that both homes and their immediate surroundings play a critical role in a home surviving a wildfire. Your home’s building materials, design and landscape choices can increase risks of your home igniting during a wildfire. If a wildfire burns near your home, its intensity can be reduced or even stopped if “fuel” on your property is managed.

To prepare your home and the area around your home,  start with the house and then move into the landscaping. The “home ignition zone” is your home and surroundings out 100-200 feet. Often, a person’s home ignition zone overlaps with their neighbor’s property. In those cases, it’s important to work together to reduce the shared wildfire risk.

Consider these wildfire risk reduction home and landscape guidelines to reduce or change the fuels in your home ignition zone.

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Fire: Keep It Safe – Keep It Clean

State regulations allow individual households to burn small amounts of dry, household rubbish which includes only unrecyclable paper and cardboard, natural fibers, clean, untreated wood and similar materials, and small quantities of dry leaves and plant clippings unless prohibited by local ordinance.

However, fire officials caution that the open burning of many materials produce a variety of air pollutants that is unhealthy for your or your neighbors to inhale. In addition, debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Wisconsin, accounting for nearly 30% of the state’s wildfires each year.

If burning is the only option for yard waste, burning permits may be required to burn yard debris piles or for broadcast burning any time the ground is not entirely snow-covered. Permits ensure legal and responsible burning with minimal wildfire risk.

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Will A Fire Truck Fit Down Your Driveway?

In the event of a wildfire in your area, firefighters may need to reach your home. If firefighters cannot safely access your home, they will find an alternative way to get to you that may take longer – and when fighting fire, every second counts.

Help Firefighters Reach You

You are the first line of defense when it comes to helping your home survive a wildfire. To enable firefighters and other emergency vehicles to locate and reach your residence quickly it’s important to establish a safe route with adequate driveway access.

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Fire danger remains high

Normally by this time of year, spring wildfire danger is over. Due to minimal precipitation, the danger isn’t over yet.

Since June 1, the DNR has responded to 106 wildfires in DNR protection areas. Fire danger remains elevated in many parts of the state, with much of the northern half of Wisconsin currently experiencing High to Very High fire danger.

DNR-issued burning permits will be suspended in some counties. As always, check for restrictions in your area daily after 11 a.m.

Be cautious with anything that could inadvertently start a wildfire. Ensure all tow chains are secured, avoid parking vehicles on dry grass, keep ATVs and UTVs on the trail and avoid any fireworks use. If you’re doing any woods work, avoid setting down hot chainsaws on dry grass or leaves.  Never leave your campfire unattended and make sure it’s fully out – drown and stir until all material feels cool.

Wisconsin Wildfire Report: Dry Conditions And Low Relative Humidity Keep Fire Danger Elevated

Over the last week, the DNR has responded to nearly 50 wildfires mainly caused by equipment and debris burning.

The most critical fire danger is now in northern Wisconsin, particularly in the northwest, where significant rainfall will be needed to improve the situation.

Low relative humidity is expected through this weekend, with the lowest across northern Wisconsin. This dry air, combined with warm temperatures, aid in the spread of wildfires. Winds are expected to remain light, which will be a large influence in helping fires that start to stay small.

Wisconsin DNR Burning Permits will be suspended as needed throughout the weekend. Before you burn any debris this weekend, check for any suspensions or restrictions at bit.ly/WiFireDanger.

Please exercise caution with anything that could start a wildfire. Operate equipment, including chainsaws, ATVs/UTVs, lawnmowers, etc., early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sparks when fire weather is most critical. Secure trailer chains to keep them from dragging. Keep campfires small and contained and delay having them until the evening hours.

Please remain alert and report fires early by calling 911.

May 14 marks the 8th anniversary of the Germann Road Fire in Douglas County that burned 7,442 acres and 100 buildings including 100 homes and cabins.

DNR firefighter surveys damage resulting from the 2013 Germann Road Fire.

 

Fire Danger High and Expected to Increase Over Weekend

Wisconsin fire experts remind Wisconsinites that we’re entering a critical period for forest fire potential and it’s essential to regularly check fire danger and burning restrictions.

Since March 1, DNR firefighters have responded to 500 wildfires that have burned more than 1600 acres. Fire danger is expected to increase over the weekend, due in part to the fact that southern Wisconsin has received less rain than normal.

Crown fire rages during 2005 Cottonville Fire.

Additionally, the state’s greatest tree species of concern, pines, are in a phenomenon called the “spring dip.” During this time, moisture content in the needles is low while the starch content is high. This combination, which is not visible to the naked eye, means that pine trees are more likely to catch fire during a wildfire and crown fires (fires in the tree tops) are possible. The timing of this phenomenon coincides with the greening-up of ground vegetation and leafing out of trees, which can cause people to let their guard down.

May 5th marks the 16th anniversary of the Cottonville Fire, which burned 3,410 acres in Adams County. The fire burned a swath of forest land and residential property 1.5 miles wide and 7 miles long; 90 buildings were destroyed, including 9 year-round homes, 21 seasonal homes, and 60 outbuildings. The fire was started by a person who failed to follow burning permit restrictions.

Burning permits for residential debris burning are frequently suspended this time of year when fire danger increases. Check the day’s burning restrictions every day you intend to burn by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or by checking online. Larger piles and daytime burning require a special permit from the DNR. Piling your debris in a campfire pit does not make it acceptable to burn during the day. Remember: If your property is outside the DNR protection area, check with local officials for burning restrictions.

Fire Experts: Stay Vigilant As Wisconsin Fire Season Continues

Waukesha County fire burns next to subdivision, threatening dozens of homes.
Photo credit: John Jorgenson, DNR pilot

It’s been a busy wildfire season in Wisconsin so far and it’s only April 8. During the first week of April, 161 wildfires have burned more than 1,000 acres; 19 buildings were destroyed and another 179 were threatened by the flames but saved with fire suppression efforts.

The main fire causes have been debris burning and equipment, accounting for more than half of the fires. However, the two largest fires of the week, in Juneau and Waukesha counties, were ignited along railroads.

Recent rain has given us a bit of a reprieve, but it won’t take long for the dead grass, leaves and pine needles to dry out and be ready to ignite once again.

April is the busiest month for wildfires in our state. Stay vigilant with any outdoor flames, smoke, campfires, ash disposal or equipment use. Put off burning your debris pile until the vegetation “greens up,” or becomes less dry after spring rains.

Click here to check daily fire danger, wildfire reports and burning restrictions.

When Leaves Fall, Fire Danger Rises

When Leaves Fall, Fire Danger Rises
Fall is upon us.  The leaves are turning colors and falling from the trees. Pines, spruce, and other evergreens are in the midst of their seasonal needle drop. Plants and grasses are going dormant, leaving only crispy brown remnants of what was their green, flowering summer glory. As the leaves fall, the risk of wildfires rises.  Dry, windy conditions have resulted in nearly a dozen wildfires in the last week here in Wisconsin.

Wildfires can occur any time of the year when the ground is not snow covered. Wildfires are more likely to start when people burn leaves and brush, leave campfires unattended, dump wood ash outdoors, or operate vehicles or equipment near wildland vegetation. Wildfires are more likely to spread when there is an abundance of dead vegetation around to carry the flames.

In Wisconsin, the top causes of wildfires during the fall of the year are:
1. 27% Equipment (logging or farm machinery, vehicle exhaust or equipment sparks)
2. 25% Debris burning (burning brush, leaves, or trash in burn barrels or on the ground)
3. 9% Improper ash disposal (dumping wood ash from fireplaces, wood stoves, etc. outdoors)
4. 6% each – power lines and incendiary
5. 5% campfires

Sweeping leaves off the deck

Keeping leaves swept off the deck reduces the amount of burnable wildland “fuel” next to your home or cabin.

Taking precautions anytime you use fire outdoors is your key to preventing wildfires and paying a hefty suppression bill should you start one. If you use a woodstove or fireplace for heating your home, either empty the ashes into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid or dump the ashes onto bare soil then drown the ash with water and stir until you’re sure no hot embers remain. The same goes for campfires, burn barrels and burned leaf and brush piles – before you leave the area, drown the ashes, stir, and keep adding water until all smoke is gone.

There are simple things property owners can do to protect their home or cabin from wildfire this fall and next spring when wildfire potential is at its greatest. Your “home ignition zone” is your home and its surroundings out to at least 100 feet (up to 200 feet if your home is surrounded by pine trees). Research has shown that the characteristics of buildings and their immediate surroundings determine the risk of them igniting during a wildfire.

Picking up brush in the fall

Fall is a great time of year to gather fallen branches. Take the brush to a community collection site or create small piles for wildlife habitat.

What can you do?
 Rake up or mow leaves and pine needles
 Remove dead plant material from gardens
 Remove fallen leaves and needles from rain gutters, off the roof, under decks, in window wells and any other place around the home where this debris collects
 Prune evergreen tree branches up and away from the ground
 Compost leaves and garden clippings instead of burning
Keep aware of the fire danger year-round by bookmarking the DNR’s fire Web page: dnr.wi.gov, search “fire”.