DNR fire officials say wildfires still real threat heading into weekend
Department of Natural Resources fire officials say the spotty showers that fell in some Wisconsin areas today did nothing to weaken the ongoing fire weather now predicted to last into the weekend, continuing the call for ‘high alert’ to the threat of wildland fires.
Fire danger in Douglas County remains low, according to the DNR’s website. For areas where the ground vegetation is completely snow-covered and will remain so for the duration of the burn, a DNR burning permit is not required. However, it is necessary to check back when the ground is no longer snow-covered.
Trent Marty, DNR Director of Forest Protection, says this past week DNR fire-fighting crews joined local fire departments in handling wildland fires that broke in the state's southern counties, where low humidity with warm temperatures and strong, gusty winds prompted public advisories of fire weather conditions.
"We were hoping for the rain to arrive a little earlier this week, but it looks like we will continue to be on high alert for a few more days until the much needed precipitation arrives," Marty said.
This week marked the year's first widespread risk of potentially intense fire weather as strong winds moved in over the dry terrain of the west- and south-central counties, threatening to reignite embers from spring debris burns.
Even though the DNR has suspended burning permits in several counties, firefighters are continuing to respond to numerous residential debris piles or prescribed fires where individuals are not complying with the recent permit suspensions.
"While these may not be categorized as a 'wildfire' in our books, they do deter our fire response resources from what could potentially be an out-of-control wildfire in another area," Marty said. "This could mean the time it takes for that fire to become a bigger problem and compromise the safety of the public and our firefighters."
The DNR may issue citations to individuals for not obtaining proper burning permits, failing to comply with any permit restrictions or allowing a fire to escape. Anyone found responsible for causing a wildfire on state, federal or private lands is liable for all suppression costs and damages associated with that fire.
Central and west-central Wisconsin counties are facing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. With the recent dry pattern that started in April coupled with continued high winds, low humidity and warmer temperatures, this could prove to be a busy weekend for wildland firefighters.
Spotty rain is expected, however any early amounts of precipitation will take longer to hit the ground and overcome all the dry air.
"Don't let the rain lull you into complacency," Marty said. "Fine fuels, such as grasses, shrubs and cattails, can dry out quickly and elevate the fire danger in a matter of hours."
The DNR recommends the public avoid all outdoor burning until conditions significantly improve.
Check for fire conditions and burn permit restrictions daily at this DNR site: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.asp