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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 causesDebris burning

Sticks, leaves, and branches on fire, being blown around by the wind.

Debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Wisconsin. The first step to prevent a debris-burning caused wildfire is to always consider alternatives to burning. If burning is your preferred option, then learning what to do before, during and after your burn will significantly decrease your chances of starting a wildfire.

Most debris fires occur in the spring after the snow-cover melts and prior to vegetation greening. Spring is when people are outside doing yard clean-up and then choosing to burn leaves, brush and pine needles.

Keep it safe

If you choose to burn, follow these simple guidelines to ensure you are burning safely.

  • Before burning

    • Obtain proper burn permits and follow any restrictions.
    • Comply with local ordinances that may be more restrictive than state law.
    • Make certain you are only burning legal materials.
    • Keep an eye on the weather and avoid burning under windy conditions.
    • Make certain the area adjacent to the fire is free of all flammables.
  • During burning

    • Have a water source and firefighting tools handy, like a shovel or rake.
    • Keep the size of the fire small and manageable.
    • Maintain a mineral soil firebreak around the burn area.
    • Never leave your fire unattended.
    • If weather conditions change for the worst, put the fire out immediately.
    • If your fire escapes, dial 911 immediately!
  • After burning

    • Make sure the burn is completely out before leaving.
    • Use lots of water, drown, stir and repeat until cold.
    • Go back and check again later for any remaining smoke or embers.
    • Fun fact: use cold ashes from your burn as a bed for your garden. It makes a great fertilizer!

Safety tip: Consider waiting until the ground is completely snow-covered. Throw a tarp over materials and wait until snow accumulates and will remain on the ground for the duration of your burn.

Last revised: Friday April 13 2018