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current wildfire activity.
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Wildfire causes
Smokey Bear's 75th Birthday logo

During 2019, we salute Smokey Bear's efforts to prevent human-caused fires. Happy 75th birthday, Smokey!

Contact information
For more information, contact:
Catherine Koele
Forest fire prevention specialist
715-356-5211 x208

Wildfire causesEquipment and vehicles

ATV spinning its tires causing the nearby grass to catch on fire.

Properly maintained and safe use of outdoor equipment and vehicles can greatly reduce the chances of sparking a wildfire. Equipment fires account for nearly 1/3 of Wisconsin's wildfires. The majority of them are caused by sparks or hot exhaust systems from logging, farming equipment and off-road recreational vehicles.

The general rule of thumb is to be aware of dry conditions, avoid use during these times and properly maintain equipment and vehicles by thorough cleaning of debris and routine mechanical checks.

Vehicles

Motorists are responsible for many wildfires sparked along roadways. Nearly all of these fire starts could be prevented by following these safety recommendations.

  • Secure chains

    • Practice safe towing; dragging chains can throw sparks.
    • Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains.
  • Look for dragging parts

    • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground.
  • Check tire pressure

    • Maintain proper tire pressure; driving on exposed wheel rims will throw sparks.
    • Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and learn how to properly use it.
    • Don't drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush; hot exhaust pipes, catalytic converters and mufflers can start fires that you won't even see until it's too late!
  • Maintain brakes

    • Brakes worn too thin may cause metal to metal contact which can cause a spark.

Outdoor equipment

Learn how to use outdoor equipment properly to help keep from sparking a wildfire.

  • Mowing

    • During dry periods, conduct mowing operations in the morning hours, but never when it's windy or excessively dry.
    • Avoid mowing dry grass and weeds.
    • Watch out for rocks near mowing operations; metal blades can strike rocks and create sparks.
  • Spark arresters

    • In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gasoline-powered equipment (e.g. tractors, harvesters, chainsaws, mowers, ATV's, etc.).
    • Keep the exhaust system and spark arresters in good working order and free of carbon buildup.
    • Use the recommended grade of fuel and don't top off to cause a spill.
  • Equipment operations

    • Grinding and welding operations in wooded or grassy areas should allow for good clearance from surrounding vegetation.
    • Avoid driving vehicles on dry grass or brush; hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires.
    • Keep a shovel and fire extinguisher handy. If a fire escapes your control, dial 911 immediately.
Last revised: Friday April 13 2018