Wildfire season underway
Burning permits available
Spring is welcome after Wisconsin’s winters, but seasonal and dry conditions may lead to more wildfires.
That is why Ben Baumgart, forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the Waupaca Forestry Office, is gearing up for spring wildfire season and reminding people to get their burning permits now.
“Weather is the single most important factor influencing how fires start and spread. Temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation are the key weather components that determine the daily fire danger,” he said.
Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of Wisconsin’s wildfires, and fires caused by careless burning become more frequent this time of year.
This year’s fire season is following historic patterns with peak activity expected during April.
Wildfires may happen just about any time of the year, but history has shown 60 percent of all wildfires in Wisconsin each year occur in March, April and May alone.
“Many people are eager to get outside to clean up their properties by raking leaf litter, brush and pine needles, so it looks good and is ready for new growth. Then, they choose to burn their debris pile,” Baumgart said.
Rainy weather does not mean conditions are safe for debris burning.
Light fuels, such as leaves, grasses and pine needles in sandy soils, may dry out quickly and turn into hazardous conditions in a matter of a day.
Fire control officials stress the importance of knowing the local fire danger.
Throughout the spring, the DNR monitors the weather and fuel conditions daily.
This influences the fire danger, most often communicated on Smokey Bear fire danger level signs.
Fire danger sign levels range from “low” to “extreme.”
“The signs describe the potential for a fire to start and spread and the intensity at which a fire will burn in the wildland,” Baumgart said. “Our hope is that the public will take note of these signs, check our website or hotline and adapt their behavior and act responsibly.”
Penalties exist for anyone found responsible for causing a wildland fire.
“You could be liable for the costs it takes to suppress that fire and potentially any damages. Getting your permit and checking those daily fire restrictions is a much cheaper and safer option,” Baumgart said. “To avoid these concerns altogether, consider composting your yard waste or hauling it to a transfer site. Burning debris should always be the last alternative.”
As soon as the snow cover is gone, burning permits are required in DNR Protection Areas.
Permit holders are authorized to burn vegetative materials, such as leaves, brush and pine needles, and are designed so burning is done safely with minimal wildfire risk.
People may obtain an annual DNR burning permit by visiting dnr.wi.gov and typing “burn permit” in the keyword search.
They may also call 888-947-2876 to have it mailed or instantly emailed or visit a local DNR office or designated Emergency Fire Warden.
Once someone has a burning permit, that person must go online after 11 a.m. on the day of the planned burn to check daily fire restrictions, legal burning hours and size limitations or if burning has been suspended for the day.