Preventing wildfires

Happy 75th Birthday Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear, Cheers to 75 Years of Preventing Wildfires

Smokey Bear celebrates his 75th birthday.“With a Ranger’s hat and shovel and a pair of dungarees, you will find him in the forest always sniffin’ at the breeze…” – If this jingle sounds familiar, then one might know we are talking about the living symbol of fire prevention and our beloved friend, Smokey Bear!

With the longest-running public service campaign in U.S. history under his belt, Smokey has taught millions of Americans about the role in preventing wildfires since 1944.  Seventy-five years later, Smokey celebrates a milestone birthday.

To support Wisconsin’s fire prevention efforts, Governor Tony Evers proclaimed August 9th, 2019 as ‘Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday’ through a signed Office of the Governor Proclamation to honor and observe this historic event, recognizing Smokey’s contribution to the education, health and safety for the past 75 years of Wisconsin’s citizens.

“As far as recognition goes, Smokey Bear ranks right up there behind Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse,” says Catherine Koele, Department of Natural Resource wildfire prevention specialist. “Many of us remember Smokey from our childhoods.  We’d see him in parades, on posters, in magazines or occasionally in TV commercials.  If we were lucky enough, maybe he’d stop by the classroom and teach us about fire safety.”

Take a peek at the History of Smokey Bear—a timeline of important events over the last 75 years!

Smokey gives back

Throughout Smokey’s 75th birthday year, Smokey himself will be giving back to local communities in Wisconsin by celebrating somebody else’s birthday.  The DNR is partnering with the non-profit organization Box of Balloons to support fire prevention and the mission to make a child’s birthday happy, celebrated and memorable.

Coordinated by eleven chapters across the state, Box of Balloons provides birthday boxes to children below poverty.  This year, Box of Balloons will be highlighting outdoor recreation and Smokey Bear themed birthday boxes for Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd Grade.  Each box and birthday celebration will include a surprise visit by Smokey Bear.  DNR forestry staff, acting as Smokey, will also provide fire prevention activities to educate and entertain the children attending each party.Celebrate Smokey Bear's 75th Birthday

This unique partnership will help both organizations expand into rural communities in hopes of getting Smokey’s image in front of children while also helping them feel special and celebrated on their birthdays. To learn more about the mission or support the efforts provided by Box of Balloons, visit

Celebrate with Smokey!
Swing by the Wisconsin State Fair August 1-11 and visit Smokey at Exploratory Park.  On August 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the DNR will host a special birthday party. Smokey will be making appearances at several of our state parks and forests in the coming weeks.  To find out where, visit the DNR’s event calendar at, keyword “get outdoors”  For more information on Smokey and his birthday, visit

Celebrate Smokey’s 75th birthday — take Smokey’s Pledge, share his message, consider alternatives to burning or encourage friends and family to be more careful with fire.  Doing your part will help ensure Wisconsin’s most treasured landscapes – and the people and wildlife who call them home – are safe from devastating, unplanned and unwanted fires.  Cheers to another 75 years, Smokey Bear!

Watch Smokey show off his dancing skills on the steps of the Capitol in a F.I.R.E video with Wisconsin firefighters as they sing happy birthday to the YMCA tune from the Village People.

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. Campfires, 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 and does require a burning permit in DNR protection areas.

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. Remember, you may be held responsible for all suppression costs and potentially any damages associated.A campfire is no longer a campfire if the intent is to burn debris.

Fireworks can cause wildfires

Fireworks can cause wildfires.  Don's let your fun turn into flames.Forestry officials suggest caution with fireworks
By: Amy Luebke, DNR

Each year the use of both legal and illegal fireworks causes wildfires in Wisconsin.  Anyone using legal fireworks should do so only in a clear area away from buildings, vehicles and shrubbery and should have water or a fire extinguisher handy.  Remember that wildfires can occur anytime the ground is not snow covered.  Make sure you are aware of your local weather conditions and plan accordingly.  Fireworks can cause wildfires.  Don’t let your fun turn into flames!

Wildfire Alert

Fire danger is at High to Very High today, May 15 in several areas.  The WI DNR is suspending burning permits for debris piles and broadcast burns in many counties due to forecasted winds, low humidity and dry vegetation.  Please use caution outdoors with anything that could cause a spark including chainsaws, dragging trailer chains, and even hot exhaust systems from off-road vehicles.  For the current fire restrictions, visit

May 2, 2019 Wildfire Report

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, 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.

Leaf and needle debris under decks can ignite and start the deck and house on fire.

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.

Increased fire danger on April 26th

Increased fire danger

Expect to see strong, gusty winds today (Friday, April 26) ahead of a storm front as fire danger ranges from High to Very High statewide. There are burning permit suspensions in 27 counties. Check burning permit restrictions at, keyword “fire.” Sparks from campfires, hot equipment, woodstove ashes also a concern today, until the rain or snow arrives and winds are calm.  Fire crews will be on high alert and shifting ground resources in areas of elevated risk.   In addition, three contract single-engine air tankers are on stand-by for quick initial attack, stationed in Necedah and Siren. Report fires early by dialing 911.  Check fire restrictions here.

Prevent a wildfire

Wildfire Prevention Week

Embers can remain hot for days and start a wildfire.

Never leave your fire unattended and make sure it’s completely out before you leave.

It’s Wildfire Prevention Week!
One way you can help us celebrate, is to get a free DNR burn permit before burning.  It takes less than two minutes and we can email you the burn permit right away.  Or, call our hotline 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) and customer service can issue you one over the phone. Then, on the day of the burn, call or check online for the fire danger and burn restrictions in your county after 11 am.  Never leave your fire unattended and make sure it’s completely out before you leave. Got questions or not in an area where the DNR regulates?  Local fire officials are always willing to help.  Following these simple steps can greatly decrease your chances of starting a wildfire.  Visit this page to get your free DNR burn permit.


Wildfire Report for April 25, 2019

Debris burning caused half of Wisconsin's wildfires last week.  Burn barrels use is one form of debris burning.

Half the fires last week were caused by debris burning.

Last week 72 wildfires burned 177 acres in DNR Protection Areas;. Half of the fires were caused by debris burning (brush and leaf piles, burn barrel use, burning household trash and broadcast burning).  Other minor causes included campfires, equipment, power line and improper ash disposal. Forty buildings were threatened by wildfires but saved by fire suppression actions; four were destroyed.

The DNR wants to remind everyone to be careful with anything that can start a wildfire when you’re out fishing, hunting, camping, doing yard work, or looking for mushrooms. Fire danger can vary greatly from one day to the next this time of the year, depending on weather and dryness of the vegetation. Check this site for current statewide fire danger and burning permit restrictions: (search ‘fire danger’).

Firewise Tip: Wondering if your home is in an area at risk for wildfire? Go through our checklist and find out.

Wildfire Report for April 18, 2019

Last week 14 wildfires burned 39 acres in DNR Protection Areas; nine of the fires were caused by debris burning. Five buildings were threatened by wildfires, but saved by fire suppression actions; one was 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.”

A campfire can quickly become a wildfire on a windy day.

A warming or cooking fire on a windy day can quickly become an out of control wildfire.

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 Report

A total of 26 wildfires burned in DNR Protection Areas over the past week, burning 73 acres. Half of the fires were caused by debris burning. Eleven buildings were threatened and one was destroyed. Widespread rain and snow then lowered fire danger across the state.

Burning brush when the ground is completely snow covered.

The safest time to burn leaves, brush and pine needles is when the ground is completely snow-covered.

Spring is wildfire season and it’s important to remember that storm systems bringing snow and rain give a short reprieve in fire danger. While burning debris should always be your last alternative, the safest time to burn leaves, brush and pine needles is when the ground is completely snow-covered and will remain so for the duration of the burn.

As we dry out, expect fire danger to increase. There is plenty of dead grass and fallen leaves on the land that makes it easy for a wildfire to start and spread. Stay apprised of fire weather conditions by checking the DNR fire danger webpage each day after 11 a.m.:, keyword “‘fire”.

Firewise Tip: Remove leaves and other debris that has accumulated next to buildings, in lawns, and on and under decks. Take special care to clean out dead material from evergreen shrubs near buildings. Compost these materials or take to a leaf collection site.