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DNR imposes fire, ATV bans across northern Wisconsin

Fishermen heading to northern Wisconsin may want to pack cold lunches this weekend.

The Wisconsin DNR Wednesday issued emergency burning restrictions for seven counties starting Thursday.

The counties include: Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Iron, Burnett, Washburn and Sawyer counties

Burning permits had already been suspended, but now ATV use on state trails and smoking outdoors are also prohibited. And campfires will only be allowed in designated areas with added precautions.

The move comes on the heels of dozens of Sunday fires in northern Wisconsin, including blazes that burned 658 acres in Foxboro and nearly 1,200 acres in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest area. Only one structure, an unoccupied hunting shack, was lost in the larger Pioneer Fire. No injuries were reported.

As of today, 63 people are still patrolling the perimeter of the Pioneer Fire, according to Alan Barbian, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service. The fire was 100 percent contained as of Tuesday evening.

"That doesn't mean the fire's out," Barbian said. He said passers-by should not be concerned if they see some smoke from the area.

"It probably won't be completely out until we get a good soaking," Barbian said.

The last time a fire burned more than 1,000 acres in the forest was 1986.

The BN Fire in Foxboro was also a big deal.

"It's one of our largest fires in a 20-year-period," said Jay Gallagher, Lake Superior area forestry supervisor for the Wisconsin DNR.

Forest rangers check the area each day, according to Gallagher.

"For all practical purposes, it's out," he said, but it won't be declared out until the last stumps stop smoking.

Gallagher said teamwork between DNR crews, air support and local volunteer firefighters helped stall other Sunday fires that could have become large.

"We had a lot of close calls," Gallagher said.

A crowning fire in pine trees near Barnes burned 34 acres and threatened one home before it was beat down with the help of two air tankers and ground crews.

"The potential there was huge," Gallagher said.

In Wascott, a volunteer firefighter at the fire hall saw smoke in the distance. He called 911, then went right to the spot with a rig. Because of that initial attack, the blaze burned less than an acre.

Lack of rain has dried out fuel -- grass, leaves and branches -- and breezy, dry conditions are expected to continue into the weekend.

"It looks like our best shot for rain will be showers and thunderstorms on Sunday," said Mike Stewart, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The affected counties are Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Iron, Burnett, Washburn and Sawyer. Under the emergency restrictions:

• Gas or charcoal grills are allowed only on a concrete or asphalt surface.

• All cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking must be done indoors.

• All burning permits -- including burn barrels -- are suspended.

• ATV use is not allowed on state-owned lands or trails.

• Campfires are not allowed unless they are in a designated campground, in a metal fire ring and a campground attendant, host or manager is present.

"If it doesn't meet those three (criteria) you'll get ticketed," said Jim Bishop, DNR spokesman.