Fire season

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:, 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:, 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 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.

Spring wildfire season continues in Wisconsin

Arial picture of the Van Beek Fire

Van Beek Fire in the Town of Stephenson burned 20 acres on April 28, 2018.

In the past week, 161 wildfires burned 520 acres in DNR protection areas (approximately half the state); 88 homes and other buildings were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance and 15 buildings were destroyed.  Debris burning was the most common cause (67 fires); other causes included equipment, power line, railroad, campfires, ash disposal, and smoking. The largest fire of the week burned 124 acres and threatened 13 buildings in Eau Claire County, the cause was debris burning. Fire danger ranged from Low to Extreme across the state, with Red Flag Warnings in several counties. As the vegetation dries out on the days we don’t receive rain, expect fire danger to increase, particularly in areas where standing dead grass and other dry vegetation remains. Continue reading “Spring wildfire season continues in Wisconsin”

Red Flag Warning in 7 counties

Extreme wildfire dnager exists today! Red Flag Warning

Red Flag Warning today in 7 counties

On the heels of the busiest fire day of the year, the Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the National Weather Service has for the second day in a row issued a Red Flag Warning for today, Monday, April 30 until 7 p.m. for the following seven counties: Jackson, Trempealeau, Juneau, Monroe, Clark, La Crosse and Adams.

As a result, the Wisconsin DNR is moving to extreme fire danger in those counties and will be prohibiting burning with DNR-issued burning permits and is asking the public to be especially careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildland fire. Campfires, ashes from fireplaces, outdoor grills, smoking, chainsaws, off-road vehicles or other small engines have the potential to throw a spark, ignite a fire and spread quickly. Please use extreme caution until the fire weather improves.

Continue reading “Red Flag Warning in 7 counties”

Wildfires are on the rise

A campfire spread to nearby dry vegetation and caused a wildfire.

A campfire can quickly become an out of control wildfire if there’s not a cleared area between the campfire and nearby dry vegetation.

Last week 60 wildfires burned 129 acres in DNR Protection Areas;. Half of the fires were caused by debris burning; other minor causes included campfires, equipment, railroad, power line and improper ash disposal. Twelve buildings were threatened by wildfires, but saved by fire suppression actions. Three structures were destroyed. Snow is quickly melting in parts of the state that still have partial snow cover. This time of year there is still a great deal of dead vegetation that dries out quickly and is available fuel for a wildfire. Low relative humidity, warm temps, and gusty winds quickly drive up the fire danger. Stay aware of fire danger and burning restrictions by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or check online at, keyword “fire”. Curious about where wildfires are actively burning? Check out our fire activity webpage at, keyword “fire” and click on “View current wildfire activity.”

Firewise Tip: Turkey hunters are reminded to be extra cautious with anything that can start a wildfire when you’re outdoors. Be especially mindful of the weather. A warming or cooking fire on a windy day can quickly become an out of control wildfire.

Wildfire prevention week – spark a change, not a wildfire

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.

Lawn mower on fire surrounded by burnt vegetation

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”

Smokey Bear sighting in Oneida County

Smokey Bear Trail Cam PhotoA 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.

The honored role of the emergency fire warden, yesterday and today

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.

Photo of an Emergency Fire Warden that was taken near Park Falls, WI in 1955

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”