Nature kick-starts Wisconsin?s wildland fire season
The recent surge in warmer temperatures is shoving Wisconsin into an unusually early spring that has Rich LaValley, a forester at the Merrill DNR Ranger Station, gearing up for an equally early wildland fire season and reminding you to get your burning permits now.
“Forget what your calendar says,” LaValley said. “The last couple of years have pushed traditional fire seasons into late April and May with late snow falls. This year is looking to be very different and very early.”
As soon as the snow cover is gone, burning permits are required in DNR Protection Areas, LaValley says.
LaValley said the fire season could be more active this year because Wisconsin didn’t get a lot of snow this past winter. That means less water going into the ground, which could lead to tinder dry conditions.
Weather, burning debris can fuel wildfires
“Many people are eager to get outside and work hard to clear their properties of winter’s dead remains by raking leaf litter, brush and pine needles so it looks good and is ready for the growing season. Then, they burn the debris pile,” LaValley said. “Debris burning is Wisconsin’s top cause of wildfires because of spring’s typical weather conditions which always feel great after the long winter. However, spring’s warmer temperatures, lower humidity and wind are bad conditions for outdoor burning.”
Many responsible debris burners obtain proper permits and conduct their burn, LaValley says, but neglect to make certain their fire is out before leaving – and fail to return to make sure the ashes are cold, too.
LaValley says all it takes is one hot ember from a property owner’s debris pile to go airborne in the spring breeze and that spring clean-up job can quickly become a wildland fire no one intended. More than 60 percent of all Wisconsin wildfires each year occur in March, April and May alone.
Where to get permits and find daily burn restrictions
Weather is the single most important factor influencing how fires start – and how they spread. In the spring, fire danger changes daily with the weather. This is why it is important to always check before you burn and to follow the daily burn restrictions.
You can obtain your annual burning permit online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “burn permit” or by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) to have it mailed or instantly emailed. You can also visit a local DNR office or designated Emergency Fire Warden.
You can find the daily burn restrictions by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN or online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “fire.” Some counties are already snow-free and implementing burning restrictions. Lincoln County has recently become free of snow and as of Monday the fire danger rose to the moderate level.
LaValley said 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, checking those daily fire restrictions is a much cheaper and safer option,”LaValley said.
You may also want to consider composting your yard waste or hauling it to a transfer site. It is a much safer way to dispose of yard waste.
“Spring always is a much-welcomed season after our winters,” LaValley said. “With a little planning and dedication to getting your burn permit and following daily burn restrictions, we can work together to make it a safe one, too.”