MADISON, Wis. (Civic Media) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the National Weather Services are issuing warnings Wednesday due to critical fire conditions in most of Wisconsin.
The NWS has issued a red flag warning for about two-thirds of Wisconsin, with a fire weather watch in effect for several other counties, due to unseasonably warm temperatures, gusty winds, and low humidity.
In addition, the DNR has most of the same counties in its two highest categories for wildfire risk, extreme and high. The DNR has said this week would present fire risks due to dry weather and typical spring conditions in Wisconsin that are conducive to wildfires.
According to the NWS, the warm air, bringing temperatures well into the 80’s across the state, as well as low humidity values of 20 to 25% and winds gusting to 35 mph, are all factors in the fire risk. Any fires that are started outdoors will spread quickly, with similar conditions expected on Thursday.
Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to the critical risk of wildfires. The measure allows support for the DNR from the Wisconsin National Guard in the event of wildfire outbreaks.
“Protecting Wisconsinites from the destructive danger of wildfire is a top priority. Although northern Wisconsin still has considerable snow cover, the danger is extreme across much of the state today,” Evers said. “This executive order will give the Department of Natural Resources the ability to have all available resources ready to be quickly dispatched at critical moments to keep fires small and minimize damage.”
With elevated fire danger across most of the southern half of the state, the DNR said that there have already been 56 wildfires this week. Outdoor burning is not recommended at this time.
According to the DNR, springtime is the most critical fire season in Wisconsin. That’s because leftover plant debris from the fall is dried out, while vegetation has not yet had a chance to flourish, creating hazardous conditions that could allow wildfires to spread quickly. Warmer temperatures in the spring, combined with low humidity and wind can fuel fires. Human activities, such as burning yard waste and clearing property, contribute to the majority of wildfires in the spring. Spring wildfires, from March through May, comprise the majority of all annual wildfires in Wisconsin over the past decade, according to the DNR.
The DNR provides a number of resources to help families, property owners, and communities plan for wildfires, including action plans if a wildfire is near a populated area.
FIRE SAFETY TIPS
- Avoid outdoor burning until conditions improve. Burn permits for debris burning are currently suspended in numerous counties.
- Operate equipment (chainsaws, off-road vehicles, lawnmowers, etc.) early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sparks at peak burn hours.
- Secure dragging trailer chains.
- Report fires early, dial 911.