Emergency forest fire restrictions in place as fire danger levels rise
MADISON- The northern half of Wisconsin is under severe threat of wildfires because of severe drought conditions.
Consequently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has ordered emergency ban on a variety of outdoor fire-related activities.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, emergency forest fire restrictions were put in place in the following counties (outside of incorporated cities and villages): Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Washburn.
The emergency ban also affects portions of Barron, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire, and Polk counties.
"Under the emergency order, burning any combustible materials outdoors in the described area is prohibited," said Trent Marty, Director of Forest Protection with the Wisconsin DNR. "The risk for wildfires in these areas is very high and there's little relief in sight in the near future with the current weather pattern."
"Until conditions significantly improve, this ban will be in place," Marty added.
Under the emergency restrictions, burning any combustible material outdoors is prohibited.
That applies to burn piles and burn barrels; all campfires unless in developed camping areas; smoking any cigars, cigarettes, or pipes except within a vehicle or building; disposing any matches, ashes, charcoal briquettes, or any burning materials into the outdoors; and all fireworks, legal or otherwise.
Charcoal grills may be used only in the immediate vicinity of a residential dwelling on a non-combustible surface, such as concrete.
"Scattered rain showers tend to have no impact on the overall fire danger level when conditions are as dry as they have been," Marty said.
All-terrain vehicles are another source of concern. The hot mufflers can touch off fires by simply coming into contact with dry grass. Operators of those machines should be cautious about using them in the above counties.
"While this ban only affects the prescribed counties, the risk of wildfires is high across much more of the state," Marty said. "We ask that everyone in Wisconsin, residents and vacationers, follow the spirit of the order and be extra cautious with anything that could start a wildfire."
Local burning restrictions may also be in place in some areas and people are encouraged to contact local officials for additional information. Anyone found responsible for starting a wildfire may be charged for the cost of damages caused by the fire, in addition to costs of fighting the fire.
Since the beginning of July, DNR firefighters have responded to nearly 200 wildfires, a significant number of them started by fireworks.
Current information regarding statewide fire dangers can be found at the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.wi.us.
DNR officials say that fire danger levels may change from day to day, and additional counties may be added to the order.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has also issued burning restrictions on National Forest lands in northern Wisconsin.