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Forest Fire and Law Enforcement Section Chief
When used appropriately, burning permits are an important tool in wildfire prevention. They allow the public to burn legal materials in the outdoors and are proven to be effective in protecting lives, property, and natural resources from the damages of unwanted wildfires.
The simple steps to being a responsible debris burner
- Obtain the annual burning permit online or by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) to have a permit mailed or instantly emailed. Permits are also available at a local Ranger Station or from an Emergency Fire Warden.
- On the day of the burn, check on the internet or over the phone after 11:00 a.m. for the daily fire restrictions in the county where you wish to burn:
- Follow the rules for the day. Have tools and water available, and make certain your fire is completely out before leaving.
Burning Permits, It’s Your Responsibility is a printable summary of statewide forest fire regulations and other basic fire program information.
Information you will receive
Since weather conditions can change rapidly throughout Wisconsin, fire managers set fire restrictions based on the current and predicted fire danger for the day. After you have selected the county where you wish to burn, the toll-free number or internet will provide you with the most up-to-date fire restriction information. These restrictions will tell you if burning permits are required, time and size restrictions, or if burning has been suspended due to increased forest fire danger. Remember, you must check daily after 11 a.m. on the day you wish to burn regardless of whether or not you are planning to burn on the ground or in a barrel.
- Subscribe to receive Burn Permits & Fire Danger News
Before striking a match, allow the fire experts to provide you timely information on burn permits, current fire danger and any emergency restrictions happening around the state.
What types of burning requires a permit
Intended primarily for vegetative debris removal, DNR annual burning permits are issued to landowners for burning on the ground and in barrels. These no-cost permits are good for the calendar year and are non-transferable.
Special burning permits and permits for commercial contractors may be issued for larger quantities, all day burning, and broadcast burns exceeding the local maximum size limit. Contact your local DNR Ranger Station—they’ll let you know if you qualify.
Campfires, for warming or cooking purposes, do not require a burning permit and are allowed anytime except during Emergency Burning Restrictions. Burning in a fire ring with the intent to remove debris is not a campfire and therefore a permit is required.
Follow Smokey's lead!
Smokey's Rules for Debris Burning
It is your responsibility to know where you are burning and what restrictions apply. DNR annual burning permits are only valid within DNR Protection Areas and outside incorporated cities and villages. Remember, you must also comply with local ordinances that may be more restrictive than state law. Contact your local fire department, town chairperson, or local municipal official if you have any questions.
To see detailed maps of DNR Protection Areas, select the county where the customer wishes to burn:
Liability for wildfires
It's your responsibility to have a permit available and ready to show to law enforcement personnel or firefighters if requested at any time while burning. Failure to obtain a permit or comply with the daily restrictions could result in a citation.
If your fire escapes and starts a wildfire, you may be held liable for all suppression costs. Any person, whose property is injured or destroyed by your fire, may also recover, in a civil action, the value of timber or damages suffered.
Debris burning should always be your last alternative. Consider alternatives like composting or leaving your vegetative debris in the woods for wildlife to enjoy. If you still choose to burn, keep in mind what's allowable to burn with your DNR annual permit:
Make sure your fire is completely extinguished before you leave.
*Remember, recycling of clean paper and cardboard is required
The DNR strongly discourages the use of burn barrels. Burn barrels emit dioxin, acid vapors, carcinogenic tars, and "heavy metals" such as lead, cadmium and chromium, as well as unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide. Note: small businesses, commercial enterprises, and industries may not use burn barrels or engage in other kinds of open burning for any waste generated by the businesses.
Materials that may not be burned in a burn barrel or debris pile also may not be burned in a furnace, wood stove or similar home heating system.
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