Although we had a pretty good snowfall last week the area had experienced an early Spring Wildland Fire Season. Rock County was in a moderate fire danger as listed by the Wisconsin DNR. As you travel around the state you will see Smokey Bear signs displaying the daily fire danger most are in northern and western Wisconsin.
The Clinton Fire Department monitors these ratings and when we get to the moderate and above ratings we will post it on our sign on Ogden Avenue. These ratings describe the potential for a fire to start and spread and the intensity at which a fire will burn in the wildland.
Fire danger ratings are based on weather, fuels, and changes in the landscape. The signs encourage the public to adapt their behavior and obey restrictions based on their knowledge of these fire danger levels. During the “Low” rating, fires do not ignite easily and will spread slowly.
This is the safest time to burn. When we move into a “Moderate” ratings fires can ignite and will spread, but are relatively easy to contain. Use caution if burning. The “High” rating is a serious condition. Fires ignite easily, spread rapidly and are difficult to control. Burning is not recommended. Next is the “Very High” rating and is a dangerous condition. Fires start easily and spread rapidly with increased intensity.
Now fires are very difficult to control. Burning is not recommended. When we get to an “Extreme” rating we are under an explosive condition. Fires start easily, spread furiously, and burn intensely. This is the worst possible danger. Burning is strongly not recommend-ed.
Usually before we get to the “Very High” rating local officials will have placed the entire county on a burning ban. When we have, consistent snow cover it greatly reduces the likelihood a fire will get out of control. Every year, thousands of wildfires in Wisconsin are started because of careless use of fire in the outdoors.
Since 98 percent of these fires are caused by humans, wildfire prevention aims to teach people about the dangers of accidentally igniting fires, with the expectation that safe burning practices will lead to fewer wildfires.
This is important because a wildfire in the wrong place can destroy homes and alter the landscape causing stress on wildlife and ruining the aesthetic beauty of our forests. Preventing wildfires also reduces the cost of firefighting efforts and economic losses associated with property damage, timber loss and large-scale evacuations.
Wildfires do not discriminate. Under the right conditions, a wildfire can happen to anyone who uses fire in the outdoors carelessly. And, any person responsible for setting fire to the land, either accidentally or intentionally, and allowing it to become a wildfire may be liable for suppression costs and will be responsible for all damages.
To prevent a wildfire from happening, it helps to understand how fires start and spread. Then, become more aware of the things around your home and property that may catch fire and cause damage to the things you value.
The goal is to identify the risks and hazards before lighting your fire. Every fire needs three things to start and burn: oxygen, heat, and fuel. Oxygen is always in the air. Heat and fuel, on the other hand, are elements of fire that humans can control.
Heat comes from various human activities such as striking a match, operating hot equipment, burning debris, having a campfire, playing with fireworks, or disposing of hot ashes from woodstoves or fireplaces. Fuel in the wildland comes in the form of grass, leaves, pine needles, shrubs, trees, lawn furniture, firewood piles, buildings, and campers—really, anything on your property that can burn.
The transfer of heat to the fuel is what causes a wildfire to spread. Debris burning is a common cause of wildfires and an example of how heat and fuel can be a deadly combination, if not used properly.
Simple actions such as removing all flammables around the burn, keeping your fire small and manageable, having tools and water handy and making sure your fire is completely out before leaving can prevent your debris pile from escaping and causing a wildfire.
Weather is the single most important factor influencing how fires start and spread. Temperature, wind, humidity, and precipitation are the key weather components that determine the daily fire danger. Wildfires can happen just about any time of year, but history has shown how changes in the landscape and seasonal trends greatly impact fire occurrence. Spring is the most critical fire season in Wisconsin.
Shortly after the snow disappears a dry spring or even a few days in between rains, can leave grasses, pine needles and leaf litter very dry, creating hazardous conditions. Warmer temperatures, low humidity and
windy days coupled with many landowners conducting spring clean-up around their property by burning yard waste leads to most wildfires. In the summer months, when vegetation is green and humidity is elevated, wildfires do not spread as quickly. However, long-term seasonal drought due to a lack of rain can occur and fire occurrence can spike.
A common trend is to see fireworks and hot equipment causing many wildfires under these conditions. Although Clinton Fire does not charge, the average cost of fighting a wildfire in Wisconsin is nearly $1,000 depending on the suppression resources used. On average, 4,000 wildfires occur in Wisconsin each year. Most them happen in the spring.
Please use caution when burning this spring. Until next week, stay safe
Chief Rindfleisch