Burning of yard debris is not recommended this weekend and is currently banned in parts of Barron County and all of Rusk County, as the Department of Natural Resources is asking people to help prevent wildfires this Easter holiday weekend, April 2–4.
Most fires—85 percent, are started by people, not nature—and there were 55 fires the last week, burning more than 200 acres.
“Our fires are very small. We don’t have the big, long-range fires you see out west, but we do have a lot of them and they can be prevented,” said Catherine Koele, DNR wildfire prevention specialist on Friday, April 2.
Burning yard debris—like leaves and grass clippings—are the top cause of wildfires. Campfires (used for warmth or cooking) or sparks from vehicles or machinery, were the other causes.
The DNR has suspended burn permits while fire danger is “very high” for parts of the state in which it regulates burn permits. Dry conditions and windy weather heightened the risk of wildfires and Koele did not want people to get complacent about the danger.
This bans burning in the DNR wildfire protection areas, parts of the state that are heavily forested or have a history of wildfires. This includes Rusk County, Barron County townships of Dovre, Chetek, Sumner, Doyle, Cedar Lake, Bear Lake, Lakeland, Maple Plain and parts of Stanley and Prairie Lake townships that are east of CTH SS. Much of the northern half of Chippewa County, including the townships of Sampson, Birch Lake and the east half of Bloomer township are included.
In cities and villages and areas outside of the DNR’s wildfire protection zones, the DNR does not have authority on burning regulations. They are instead handled by the local government. But the DNR does work closely with those governments to prevent wildfires, said Eric Martin, DNR fire suppression specialist.
While burn ban might not specifically apply to areas outside of the DNR’s jurisdiction, such as in the city or in Sioux Creek Township, the DNR recommended people refrain from burning. While campfires are legal, they are discouraged. In times of extreme drought, the governor can issue a statewide burn ban.
Koele said if you do have a campfire or bonfire, keep it small and have a fire pit and screen to prevent sparks from escaping. Keep the area around the fire clear of debris and burn in the evening when the winds are calm and the humidity is higher and less risk of starting a wildfire.
Until the grasses, trees and other vegetation greens, there will be risk of wildfires. Even after it rains, grass that isn’t green can dry out in less than a day.
If a wildfire starts, call 911. Don’t try to subdue the fire yourself.