Contact(s): Zach Hylinski, DNR forester ranger, Bowler, 715-793-4606; Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683
BOWLER, Wis. - Wisconsin forest ranger Zach Hylinski says while spring is always much-welcomed after our long winters, the seasonal warm and dry conditions can result in increased wildfire activity.
That's why the Bowler and Keshena DNR offices are gearing up for spring wildfire season and reminding you to get your burning permit 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," Hylinski said.
Debris burning is the number one cause of Wisconsin's wildfires, Hylinski said, and fires caused by careless burning become more frequent this time of year. 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. Then they choose to burn their debris pile," Hylinski said.
Rain events this time of year can cause the public to become more complacent in thinking conditions are safe. However, Hylinski said, light fuels such as leaves, grasses and pine needles in sandy soils can 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, DNR monitors the weather and fuel conditions daily. This influences the fire danger, most often communicated on Smokey Bear fire danger signs. Fire danger 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," Hylinski 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."
Hylinski 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 and checking those daily fire restrictions is a much cheaper and safer option."
Or, Hylinski said, 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. Permit conditions 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! For the average customer, it takes less than two minutes to go online and apply. The permit is good for the calendar year and we can even email or mail it right away," Hylinski said. "With a little planning and dedication to getting your burn permit and following the rules, we can all work together to prevent wildfires."
You can obtain your annual DNR 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 also can visit a local DNR office or designated Emergency Fire Warden.
Once an individual has a burning permit, he or she is required to call or go online after 11 a.m. on the day of the planned burn to check daily fire restrictions and hear the legal burning hours and size limitations or if burning has been suspended for the day.
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.
For more information on burning permits, fire danger and preparing for wildfires around your home and property, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "fire."