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.
Wildfire Report for May 2, 2019
Widespread precipitation has kept wildfire activity low lately. In the past week, 63 wildfires burned 54 acres in DNR protection areas (approximately half the state); 35 homes and other buildings were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance and 3 buildings were destroyed. Debris burning was the most common cause (30 fires); equipment was the second most common cause (17 fires). Other minor causes included power line, campfires, and ash disposal. 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.
If you choose to conduct outdoor burning, remember that a free annual burning permit is required to burn small piles of debris and to burn in a burn barrel in DNR protection areas. Burning permits are frequently suspended this time of year when fire danger increases. You must check the day’s burning restrictions every day you intend to burn by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or by checking online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword ‘fire danger’. Larger piles and daytime burning requires a special permit from a DNR Ranger. Piling your debris in a campfire pit does not make it okay to burn during the day. If your property is outside a DNR protection area, check with local officials for burning restrictions.
Remove leaves and needles from your roof, around your foundation and under your deck to prevent ignition by a flying ember.
Firewise Tip: Homeowners are encouraged to make weekly checks around your home or cabin for windblown leaves and needles on your roof, around your foundation, and under decks and elevated porches; keep these areas clean. The debris that collects in these places could be easily ignited by flying embers produced during a wildfire.
Ask yourself, is it safe to burn that debris pile today?
Warmer temperatures have caused several southern Wisconsin counties to jump to HIGH fire danger, while others are seeing rapid snow-melt or flooding near riverways. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of variation on Wisconsin’s landscape in the days to come. Spring is wildfire season and conditions can dry out quickly on warm and windy days, especially in areas of grass or light vegetation. It’s a good reminder that fire danger and burning restrictions can change daily. Be safe out there– check before you burn! https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.html
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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
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”