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Wisconsin DNR asks people to think ahead as the Northwoods while wildfire risk remains low

A fire in the Boundary Waters in 2021.
The Delta Lake Fire, Eastern Area IMT
A fire in the Boundary Waters in 2021.

Spring is most dangerous time of year for wildfires in Wisconsin.

After the snow melts, but before the grass and trees turn green fires can spread quickly.

Last year, was one of the busiest fire seasons in recent Wisconsin history.

By this time last year, there had been more than 300 brushfires.

DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist Catherine Koele says that was due to an early snowmelt across the entire state last year.

That’s not the case this year.

“We’re actually have more of an average, below normal year for wildfires. That snow cover slowly dissipating as we go to the north,” she said.

There’s been fewer than 70 wildfires so far this year, majority of them in southern third of the state.

Koele’s biggest concern in the Northwoods is that the longer winter holds on up here, the more complacent people will get when the snow does melt.

“It’s important to know while we have been in this wet stretch and still seeing some snow on the ground, at some point things will dry out and we will be more prone for fires to start and spread as well,” she said.

Recent ice storms have brought down a lot of trees and debris across the Northwoods.

Many people are looking forward to burning that debris once the weather turns a bit nicer.

Koele encourages people to avoid burning the debris and consider composting or taking it to a yard disposal site instead.

If you have to burn, do it as safely as possible.

“Take advantage of the current, low fire danger. We are expecting to see a little bit of snow. Take advantage of that. Conduct your burns when the ground is snow covered. That’s going to be your safest time to conduct any outdoor burning,” said Koele.

You can call 1-888-WIS-BURN to get a permit or visit the DNR’s website.

People start 98% of wildfires, most often by burning debris in the spring when vegetation is still dead and dry.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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