Spring Wildfire Risk Remains Across Wisconsin’s Storm Damage Areas

The safest time to burn debris piles is when the ground is completely snow-covered. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges the public to complete any vegetative debris burning and check any previously burned piles for lingering embers before the snow melts, particularly in the storm-impacted areas of Langlade and Oconto counties.

This is the safest time of the year to burn as fires are less likely to escape and cause a wildfire. Property owners should always consider alternatives to burning, such as composting, chipping or hauling vegetative waste to approved disposal sites.

“We continue to see an abundance of fuel for fire from the 2019 storms that moved through northeast Wisconsin and left behind miles and miles of heavy downed trees and limbs,” said Craig Williams, DNR Forestry Area Leader. “The big concern is the number of large debris piles on the landscape, indicating that many property owners are intending to burn as a method of disposal.”

Fire season begins right after the snow melts and vegetation quickly dries out with warmer temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds.

“With minimal snowpack over the winter, the DNR anticipates the potential for large-scale fires to occur in these heavy blowdown areas, until vegetation fully greens-up,” Williams said. “The hardest hit storm damage areas will have more fire restrictions in place, so people should diligently check the daily fire restrictions before burning.”

In 2020, all DNR-issued burning permits were suspended during Wisconsin’s peak wildfire season in spring due to increased safety concerns relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The health and safety of the public and firefighters is the DNR’s No. 1 priority as it relates to wildfires, and as such the DNR plans to suspend burning based on fire risk.

The department will proactively suspend DNR-issued burning permits within the pre-determined storm damage area of concern and will likely be in place until vegetation fully greens-up. The DNR’s Fire control officials will make adjustments to these restrictions if weather conditions indicate a long duration of minimal wildfire risk. Small campfires for warming or cooking will be allowed, unless the DNR imposes Emergency Burning Restrictions.

Broken trees and shrubs after storm damage
In July of 2019, multiple severe storms with straight line winds and tornados impacted nearly 250,000 acres causing significant damage in Langlade and Oconto counties, as well as Polk, Barron, Burnett, Wood, Portage and Waupaca counties. Tornados were also documented in Brown, Lincoln, Marathon and Outagamie counties, which also impacted many surrounding areas. In May 2020, Gov. Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency as a result of the widespread damage and ongoing recovery efforts.

Heavy downed timber can cause road access challenges along with potential for long-range ember spotting and increased fire intensity and longer duration of fires burning. The DNR will increase suppression resources by working with partners and pre-positioning engines, aircraft and crews in and around these storm damage areas for quick initial attack response with the goal to keeping fires small in size.

Before burning, obtain proper burning permits and check the daily fire restrictions.

If property owners in the storm-impacted areas of Langlade and Oconto counties have any questions about a specific burn location, fire restrictions in place or for additional information about the forestry impacts related storm damage, please contact local DNR Forester Jackson Beck by email at [email protected] or by phone at 715-527-0012.

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News Desk
Author: News Desk

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