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Wildfire danger picks up in spring

Burning permits available online

While spring is always welcomed after a long winter, the seasonal warm and dry conditions can result in increased wildfire activity.

That’s why Joe Tucker, a state Department of Natural Resources forester based at Hartman Creek State Park, is gearing up for spring wildfire season and reminding local residents to get a burning permit now.

“Weather is the single most important factor influencing how fires start and spread,” he said. “Temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation are the key weather components that determine the daily fire danger.”

Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of Wisconsin’s wildfires and fires caused by careless burning become more frequent this time of year, according to Tucker.

Wildfires can 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.

“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,” Tucker said. “Then, they choose to burn their debris piles.”

Rain events this time of year can cause the public to become more complacent in thinking conditions are safe. However light fuels such as leaves, grasses and pine needles in sandy soils can dry out quickly turn into hazardous conditions in a matter of a day.

“Throughout the spring, the DNR monitors weather and fuel conditions daily,” Tucker said. “This influences the fire danger, most often communicated on Smokey Bear fire danger adjective level signs.” Fire danger signs 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,” Tucker 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, Tucker said.

“You could be liable for the costs it takes to suppress that fire and potentially any damages,” he said. “Getting your permit and checking those daily fire restrictions is a much cheaper and safer option.”

Another option is composting yard waste or hauling it to a transfer site.

Burning permits are required in DNR protection areas as soon as snowcover is gone. Permit holders are authorized to burn vegetative materials such as leaves, brush and pine needles and are designed so that burning is done safely with minimal wildfire risk.

“Obtaining a burn permit is easy, fast and the best part is they are free,” Tucker said. “For the average customer, it takes less than two minutes to go online and apply. It’s good for the calendar year and we can even email or mail it right away. With a little planning and dedication to getting your burn permit and following the rules, we can all work together to prevent wildfires.”

Permit can be obtained online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “burn permit,” or by calling 888-947-2876 to have it mailed or instantly emailed. Permits are also available at local DNR offices or from designated emergency fire wardens.

“Once an individual has a burning permit, he or she must call or go online after 11 a.m. the day of the planned burn to check daily fire restrictions to hear the legal burning hours and size limitations or if burning has been suspended for the day,” Tucker said. “Some areas of the state are not regulated by the DNR, so it’s important to check with local municipal or fire department officials for any ordinances or other burning restrictions.”

More information on burning permits, fire danger and preparing for wildfires can be found at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “fire.”
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